Bright and colourful basement
Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin reimagines her dim and dysfunctional basement games room as a bright multi-purpose space with Scandi flair.
Dark. Dated. Dungeon-like.
Just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when looking at the shocking “before” photo of Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin’s now-admirable Toronto basement. Low ceilings and black-stained hardwood flooring made the 600-square-foot space feel oppressive – and the hefty pool table, oversized oil paintings and orange-painted millwork didn’t help. “It screamed ’80s pool hall, but worse yet, it was pretty much unusable,” she says. “It needed a total overhaul.”
To the untrained eye, making something of the narrow, windowless space would have seemed like a wasted effort. But as the proud owner of a century home, Erin is no reno rookie and had a clear vision of an airy, functional family room.
Erin's basement before its bright and inviting renovation.
At the far end of the family room, blend-into-the-wall white storage cabinets offer function without adding visual weight for a bright, airy space. Classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s grace the TV screen on frequent family movie nights.
An existing large alcove was the natural choice for the dining nook. Grey paint defines it and balances out the stone-clad fireplace across the room.
The next big thing to windows that open to the outside? A pair of radiant nature photographs paired with newly installed pot lights. The wall treatment of white-painted wood boards lends the room a Scandi-chic vibe.
To sustain the airness of the space, Erin chose a palette of soft greys and taupes with mauve accents.
Erin opted for a touch-latch mechanism in place of door pulls on the high-gloss flat-panelled storage unit (made from prefab IKEA cabinetry) for a totally streamlined look.
A light push in the right spot on the white storage units reveals the family’s extended collection of classic flicks and literature.
Seating options abound in the new family-friendly space. Even Cloudy, homeowner Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin’s Siamese cat, gets a stylish perch of his very own in an unused corner. The inconspicuous wall-hung radiator was a practical addition in the circa-1920s room.
Whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles.
A DIY-inclined couple turns an 800-square-foot two-bedroom bungalow into the perfect home for their young family.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson transformed the secondhand piano by covering it in grey paint, casually accessorizing it like the rest of the living room and softening its bench with a faux-sheepskin throw.
The whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles. “I brought softness into the space with the upholstered pieces, while keeping a farmhouse vibe with the antique rocking chairs,” says Amanda.
Homeowners Jason and Amanda Robinson hang out in the bright living room with their sons, Ethan (left) and Aidan.
While blue hues rock this farmhouse, Amanda also popped in some pink tones as contrast.
A fun DIY project or easily picked up at a gardening centre, terrariums are a great way to keep your home green in small ways.
Durable slate tiles define the entryway in this open-concept space. Practical items in natural tones like the bench, mirror and coat rack are artfully arranged so everything looks pulled together.
The kitchen epitomizes Amanda’s love of pale backdrops punctuated with colour and natural tones. “I made the shelves out of wooden boards from our barn and left them unpainted to contrast all the white and to complement the butcher block counters,” she says. Mismatched hardware picks up on the hits of blue throughout the home.
With their young sons and pets (Weimaraner Tessie and cat Nimble) in mind, Amanda chose tongue-and-groove pine planks for the floors, ceilings and walls. “I didn’t want new drywall with two little boys and pets running around,” she says. “It was the best design decision I ever made.”
Amanda knew she wanted a light and bright space and conceived the decor with colour in mind. “This is still a really small house, so I stuck to a neutral palette for the base: white and cream with natural wood tones throughout,” she says.
Amanda and Jason knocked down walls to create an eat-in area that features a free-standing stove surrounded by stone-veneered walls and a thrift-store dining table and chairs proudly bearing a mismatched paint job. “I painted everything grey and then decided to paint all the chairs blue but got sidetracked after one,” says Amanda. “It’s fun and quirky as is, and the boys take turns sitting in the blue chair at dinnertime.”
“The walls in Aidan’s bedroom were in good shape, so we painted them and added pine planks to the ceiling,” says Amanda. “I like the masculine look of the unpainted wood.” The new blue dressers share the space with a thrift-store wicker chair, a yellow-painted hand-me-down stool and rope-hung shelves Amanda crafted from barnboard.
“Ethan wanted everything in his room swimming pool turquoise.” They settled on a seafoam blue that’s more soothing for a bedroom and then incorporated coordinating accents in every room – even on the front door. “If you keep the big things neutral and then add accents in a single shade, it makes everything seem effortlessly connected,” says Amanda.
A bright screen door frame hints at the pops of blue to be found inside the house. Amanda refinished a hand-me-down pine table in grey paint and repurposed it as an easy-to-access storage unit for firewood. Antique Canadian Pacific Railway lanterns found in the barn and on Kijiji layer in more colour and reference the surrounding rustic landscape.
After a fresh coat of paint and some carefully placed furniture, the Robinsons are set to make this newly decorated farmhouse their home.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson used blue paint throughout her home to liven up the soothing neutral palette and provide a link from room to room. Here are her three favourite shades.
Easily update your home this fall with natural accents that create impact and add texture, without adding to the bills.
After summer ends and we all brace for the colder months, we bid farewell to the flower markets and prepare the gardens for hibernation. While we love our tulips and dahlias, there’s something undeniably beautiful in going au natural. We're talking bare bones (or bark in this case). It’s simple, readily available and affordable (possibly even free!). That’s right, decor accents can be found right outside your home! From branches to leaves to moss, there’s an abundance out there just waiting to beautify your home. Not sure how to make sticks look stylish? Not to worry, we have plenty of ways to inspire some new fall decor.
Fallen branches are your easiest bet. Gather a bundle and let them create visual interest and add texture in your space.
Is there a tree hanging precariously low or in the way? Take advantage of some tree trimming and go big with a large branch propped against a wall for some real impact.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Bright and bold
Not into the bare branch look? Using a large branch with its leaves is not only a great statement, but can also add a luscious dose of colour – especially if the leaves have started to change into those beautiful autumnal oranges and reds.
Rustic red centrepiece
Speaking of changing leaves, a cluster of rich, red leaves makes for an instant fall centrepiece.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Pretty in pink
With their sparse pink blooms, magnolia branches make a softer statement when effortlessly displayed in a simple white ceramic jug.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
It doesn’t get any simpler than feathery green branches in a clear glass vase to celebrate their natural beauty.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
An organic touch
These eucalyptus branches are just as simple, but have a slightly different look and feel. They still add a delightful organic touch, but with a richer, fuller display.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Amp up your greenery by mixing assorted wildflowers with your eucalyptus for a more lush arrangement.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Soft and simple
A simple bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace leaves adds a touch of texture and greenery.
Credits: Robin Stubbert
Low profile, high impact
If you don’t want the height of branches and leaves impeding views, but still want a burst of natural green colour in your space, a decorative bowl of moss instantly injects life into any space.
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.