Video: Secrets to the perfect living room
Video: Secrets to the perfect living room
Image: Angus Fergusson
A Toronto designer saves a lot of money and time when creating an elegant yet approachable living room for her young family.
They say time is money, and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg was keen to conserve both when she endeavoured to beautify her living room. The busy mom of three and her husband, Don Saynor, had recently renovated the main floor of their 2,000-square-foot Toronto home, netting the room a crisp envelope of fresh white walls, black-framed windows and wide-plank hardwood floors. The decor, however, left much to be desired. “We had our dog crate in there and our TV on this little side table,” says Stacy. “The room had a sad university student vibe.”
The space needed a decorative growth spurt, so Stacy began by splurging on a designer drapery fabric that echoed the monochromatic-plus-yellow palette of the adjacent kitchen (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue). To further elevate the room, she sourced a high-end grasscloth wallpaper and accented the fireplace wall with it. “Once you have a couple of investment pieces, you can play with lower-cost elements,” says the designer, who applied the principle here: While some of the furnishings – including the velvet swivel chair and statuesque side table – are affordable new purchases, others, such as the celestial-patterned bench and glam gold coffee table, are actually inexpensive second-hand items Stacy had updated. And the chic William Birch-style sofa? It’s an existing piece the designer updated by replacing the back cushions with some throw pillows. Budget-friendly artwork and other accessories, ranging from high to low, finish the room.
Sporting a chic California-cool look, the resulting space seems like a tall order, but it only took a couple of weeks to pull together – proof that style need not suffer if you’re strapped for time and cash.
In a low-budget few-week makeover, homeowner and designer Stacy Begg gave her living room a California-cool look. Against a neutral backdrop, elements like floral drapery, a gold-painted bamboo coffee table and a funky celestial-inspired bench offer a sunny, relaxed vibe.
The chic bar cart was an on-sale buy and the landscape photograph above an existing piece.
Custom drapery made from vibrant designer fabric enlivens the room.
Stacy opted for a floral drapery fabric in white, black and yellow that echoes the palette of her adjacent kitchen. “That was my jumping-off point,” she says. “I really love the yellow.” Other elements like the grasscloth wallpaper, berber-style rug and hits of brass add texture and warmth. The graphic black and white print provides contrast, and the faux encaustic hearth tiles evoke the popular Tuscan trend.
The original fireplace, which juts out past the chimney breast on either side, precluded custom built-in storage. “It was for the best,” says Stacy, who opted to hang floating shelves instead. “They were a fraction of the cost and went up in no time!” Accessorized with pieces from the designer’s stash of styling gear, the substitutes look no worse than the built-ins would have.
The fireplace, which got a crisp drywall job during a recent reno, needed some character, stat. Stacy highlighted it by covering the surrounding wall with a rich taupe sisal grasscloth – a project she and a friend completed in less than a day.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
A crisp and calm all-white bedroom is a dream in itself
These stylish master suites will have you inspired to redecorate your own space.
With a textured blush pink wall and storage ottoman this dreamy suite is anything but dull. The elegance continues through glass bedside tables and beautiful bedding, making anyone sleeping here feel calm and relaxed. See other white interiors here.
Give your bedroom a rustic feel with stylish wooden accessories. The wooden bench and wall art add texture to this space, keeping it warm and inviting. Get the look here.
A dreamy all-white room is guaranteed to look calm and crisp especially with light-grey accents, like throw pillows. We love the way the natural light in this room helps transform it into a bright, peaceful sanctuary. See the rest of the house here.
Offsetting patterns can take a while to perfect, but this bright, colourful room makes it look simple. Matching a patterned quilt on the bed with a printed navy rug pulls all the colours of the room together to create a natural palette that will leave you with sweet dreams. See the rest of the house here.
Textured walls are the key to this earth-toned room. Create your own spa-like master suite by mixing calming neutrals, like bedding and accessories. See the rest of the house here.
With such a lush view it's only natural that this bedroom be decorated with simple and chic accessories. This helps keep your eyes focused on the beautiful scenery without busy distractions. See the rest of the house here.
Decorating a large master suite doesn't need to feel intimidating. Pick a few key pieces to focus on and this will instantly become an effortless task. A large area rug easily breaks up the space while chandeliers keep the otherwise low-key room bright and inviting. See the rest of the house here.
Patterned throw pillows (which also accent the bed skirt) are the perfect way to brighten up a grey room. Light accents in this room keep the bed as the main focal point. See the rest of the house here.
Adding colour to a master suite doesn't have to be a daunting task. Hang a bold piece of artwork or above the bed, not only will it act as the perfect faux headboard, it can be replaced each time you want to add a new hue to your space. Get the look here.
An all-white bedroom can look clean and fresh but adding accents of grey or black will add some instant sophistication. In this room, the dark curtains, sofa and deep throw pillows are what truly creates a sleek look. See the rest of the house here.
Hints of colour are a great addition to any room, but this dreamy suite takes colour to the next level. Dark blue engulfs the room, creating the feeling of a royal suite. This room might have you considering what colour to try in your master bedroom. See the rest of the house here.
It's the perfect combination of a neutral palette and creative decor accessories that make this loft's master suit so dreamy. See the rest of the house here.
If there are large windows in your master suite, why not incorporate them into your decor. This bedroom's arched windows, delicately framed by neutral drapes, act as pieces of wall art. See the rest of the house here.
Draw attention to a glamorous bed with a dark wall colour that doubles as a large faux headboard. See the rest of the house here.
There is nothing dark and gloomy about this room. Instead, it has a polished and chic elegance that will leave you quickly craving a darker space of your own. See other dark bedrooms here.
Enjoy this delicious danish recipe any day of the week.
Created with pure dairy ingredients you'll love this delicious danish recipe from blogger Imen McDonnell's The Farmette Cookbook.
1 Place the sour cream, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over low heat; stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat; let cool to room temperature.
2 In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.
3 Add the sour cream mixture, eggs and flour; mix to form a very soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
4 Using an electric mixer, beat together the ricotta, sugar, egg, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
5 Place the dough on a clean work surface dusted with flour. Knead 6 or 7 times, just until smooth and pliable. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 12" x 8" rectangle.
6 Spread one-quarter of the filling on each piece of dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams and ends together to seal in the filling.
7 Place the pastries seam-side down on a buttered baking sheet and cut slits in the top of each one with a knife. Cover the baking sheet with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm draft-free place for about 1 hour, until the pastries have doubled in size.
8 Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the pastries for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.
9 Place the icing sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the elderflower cordial a little at a time, until a glaze forms.
10 Drizzle over the cooled danishes, then sprinkle with elderflowers and serve.
Prep & cook time: 6 hours
Makes: 4 pastries
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Excerpted from The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell. Text and photographs © 2016 Imen McDonnell, Food styling by Sonia Mulford Chaverri and Imen McDonnell. Excerpted by permission of Roost Books. All rights reserved.