Daring and dramatic decor using a high-contrast palette
Artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos shares design tips for adding dramatic interest to her small space.
Find helpful design tips from artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos's stylish New York City abode.
Drama defines this apartment’s small entryway. Homeowner Jen Ramos painted swatches of high-gloss black on top of the matte black walls, which serve as a bold backdrop to a console accented in gold. An organic-shaped white mirror offers a fresh counterpoint.
"To take attention away from the odd indentation behind the sofa in the living room, we created faux panelling with black paint,” says Jen. The treatment also enhances the graphic artwork and lively mix of toss cushions.
Faux fur toss cushions add lushness to a sleek leather daybed, which hides an unsightly radiator. Placed beside a marble-topped coffee table, a pair of python-print stools creates a conversation area without taking up much square footage in the small living room.
Jen and her husband, Mat, customized an inexpensive sideboard, adding an ebony-stained reclaimed-wood top and finishing it with gold knobs to provide much-needed storage to the cramped living room. Jen keeps its surface relatively clear so that it won’t compete with the treasure-filled bookshelf.
Gold is Jen’s go-to metallic for adding instant shine and standout glamour. In the entryway, brass horse-head hooks offer intriguing function and organic form. Here, Jen loves to display her favourite Rebecca Minkoff bag – it’s ready to grab and go when she’s heading out the door.
Jen needed a large work table in her office/studio, so she and Mat merged two storage cabinets and affixed a countertop to the surface.
Normally a diehard fan of gold, Jen brought in silver for this high-impact installation of her graphic love print. She mounted 12 posters made of metallic foil on heavy card stock, alternating gold and silver to showcase the warm and cool tones.
When living in a small space, every inch has possibilities – even a ledge. “I like to use decorative and personal items that reflect light and shine in the sun,” says Jen.
Jen created a sophisticated vignette in the master bedroom by painting a ceramic lamp base glossy black and placing it on an ebony-stained nightstand, both of which disappear against the soft black wall.
In the master bedroom, Jen painted the wall behind the bed black, allowing the white bedding and leather headboard to provide relief. A gallery wall breaks up the darkness. “I used personal art and photos, while mixing up their frames; it makes things more interesting,” says Jen.
Industrial-style rental loft in Montreal's Quartier International
This gorgeous rental flat serves as the perfect backdrop for an online art gallery owner’s expansive collection of work.
Between the bedroom and bathroom sits a chic home office area. The industrial look of the vintage chair and Eames desk is softened with a beautiful piece of underwater photographic art and an antique Chapman ram’s horn lamp.
Though tenant Alessandra works as an art dealer, she was enchanted by the gallery wall already installed in the living area by the flat’s owners, Nathalie Bouchard and Annie Horth. “Annie works as an artistic director and fashion stylist, and some of these photos are her collaborations,” says Alessandra. “I love the editorial feel of them.”
Alessandra leaned two dramatic works of art by photographer (and floral designer) Ashley Woodson Bailey on either side of the TV in the living area to create a pleasing sense of balance.
Instead of loading up on small decor throughout the home, Alessandra chooses to use a few select bright accessories along with artwork to pull the display together.
Alessandra often uses the dining table as a workspace; she finds it inspiring to look through the windows across the room at historic Montreal. The custom doors are an architectural highlight.
“This is definitely not a cookie-cutter rental kitchen,” says Alessandra of the modern bistro-style space, which is open to the rest of the loft.
Renters are often hesitant to hang artwork because it puts too many holes in the walls, but this wasn’t a problem for Alessandra, who prefers to lean her pieces to create a more relaxed vibe.
In the bedroom area, a floor-to-ceiling black velvet curtain acts as both a backdrop and space divider.
A windowsill affords an opportunity for art: Alessandra chose this work by Spanish photographer Rebeca Cygnus because she loves its moody blue-black palette.
A vintage wall-mounted unit provides much-needed storage in the front hall. Alessandra uses the lower surface for display purposes.
Image: Ashley Capp / Styling: Christine Dovey
Five ways to fashion a space that will easily suit your daughter as she grows into her 20s
Your girl's bedroom is her oasis — it's where she escapes, unwinds, tackles challenges, and grows. So, this should be a room that grows with her, instead of a room that has to be made over every few years to suit her changing tastes. Below, five tips on designing a space for your girl that she'll love now and then.
Pink isn’t only for youngsters and bubble gum. Designer Matthew Meisner made the “it’s a girl” hue more grown-up in his step-daughter Milena Bettencourt’s room by combining it with black and gold. He also ensured the pink items were easy to swap should the 16-year-old ever tire of them.
Custom pieces don’t have to be pricey. Matthew upgraded a big-box-store desk with funky geometric-print vinyl wallpaper for added charm.
"Persuade your kids to try looks that will mature with them," says Matthew, noting that the Rorschach-inspired wallpaper that resembles a haute French damask wasn’t an easy sell. “I don’t think Milena would have chosen this wallpaper on her own, but she loves it now.”
Establish an eclectic aesthetic that looks collected over time by grouping items that have personal significance. Take, for example, the pink-undertoned artwork on Milena’s desk: Many of the pieces reference her dad, Rick Bettencourt, from the photo of a Missoni fashion show he attended to a print of Jimmy Choo shoes that nods to his work as the vice-president of shoe empire Nine West Canada.
To help you create the perfect room, we've rounded up some cool accents that will make your daughter's space equal parts cute and chic.
#OOTD: Fashion Flat Lay colouring book by Laura Hickman, Indigo, $21.
Cotton velvet Bianca toss cushion with down alternative insert, 20", Tonic Living, $70.
Heirloom & Knot Regency wallpaper in Neapolitan, Spoonflower, from $5 US per sq. ft.
Heirloom & Knot Rorschach wallpaper in Noir, Spoonflower, from $5 US per sq. ft.
Kate Spade New York crystal Hampton Street rose bowl, Hudson’s Bay, $90.
Ceramic antique-look medium Staordshire dog figurine, Jayson Home, $95 US.
Polypropylene Sillerup rug, 7' x 10', IKEA, $159.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.