House tour: Rustic Nordic holiday style
A property in Ontario's Georgian Bay area adopts a holiday look that would feel right at home in the Nordic countryside.
During the holidays, Style at Home contributing design editor Christine Hanlon thinks nothing of skipping the traditional turkey dinner. For her, Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones, escape and relax. Really relax. This informal approach works especially well at her second property, in Thornbury, Ont. The holidays spent with family (her husband, Andrew Brady; their two children, Sophie, 10, and Henry, 7; and a couple of close relatives) at this 150-year-old house (featured in Style at Home’s January 2014 issue) resemble an idyllic rural scene straight from a Christmas card.
When the couple purchased the house three years ago, the solid 3,200-square-foot structure only required a cosmetic update. For the first year, whenever she could get away to the property, Christine worked on creating an inviting look with a mix of traditional and vintage elements and a few modern hits. A focus on natural materials like wood, sisal, cotton and linen suits the home’s surroundings.
Christine adheres to both this cozy aesthetic and her unstuffy take on Christmas when she dresses the house for the holidays. Inspired by the Nordic way of decorating (which usually involves homespun touches, the use of fresh greenery, a low-key palette and a spotlight on nature), she eschews “fancy-pants sparkle” for something more casual and simple.
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."
Christine transformed the living room fireplace into a festive focal point with a handmade bunting, a small tree placed in a vintage galvanized bucket and a boxwood garland. "I literally just plopped the garland there unattached, without any lights or ornaments. I like the simplicity of it."
Christine made the bunting that hands across the living room fireplace using black bristol board and thick twine, which prevents the triangular pieces from moving. The ends of the twine were left to dangle down the mantel, reinforcing the laid-back vibe.
On the living room coffee table, a hammered-metal Moroccan tray acts as a display spot for a natural holiday gropuing: a kraft-paper-wrapped gift, vintage-look spools and a sprig of pussy willow.
A couple of speckled guinea fowl feathers (a simple alternative to flowers) and ornaments (in a glass shadow box or laid out loose) form a pleasing Christmas vignette on the side table.
Old black and white family photographs clipped to a cute birdcage picture holder are a nostalgic touch. "The one of a woman smiling is of my Aunt Isabelle," says Christine. "And the other is of my aunt with my mother and father. There's something nice about the way they're walking arm in arm."
The garden room's soothing and sophisticated grey, black and white colour scheme is the perfect backdrop for unadorned greenery.
The barn, which is attached to the house, serves as an ideal spot to host a country-style holiday wine and cheese buffet. "We sit out there and munch on some cheese while talking and listening to Christmas music," says homeowner and Style at Home contributing design editor Christine Hanlon.
On a white-washed picnic table in the barn, Christine created a festive buffet tablescape with elements like a ticking runner, white dishware and shimmering tea light holders. A jug filled with branches makes for an easy centrepiece. It's not formally set," says Christine. "Guests can help themselves."
The barn's window is decorated with a cedar garland and lanterns. Piles of firewood and a galvanized trash can rilled with branches lend a casual life-in-the-country quality.
A lack luster basement gets a chic update.
Who says basements have to be afterthoughts? Sure, they can be cold and lack light, but that didn’t hold back design blogger Christine Dovey. Here’s how she made her lowest level one of the top attractions in her home.
With two small children, a baby on the way and a teenager heading off to university, Christine Dovey had to do some serious shuffling last year to create a space in her Oakville, Ont., home that would work for the whole family. “I really needed an adult-friendly common area that could also offer storage for toys and serve as a crash pad for my eldest daughter, Natasha, when she’s home from school (and doesn’t want to see her mom before noon),” says the design blogger.
The only answer was the basement, a dark and dingy storage space-slash-makeshift playroom where “the kids would go, but no grown-up would ever spend time,” says Christine. The 1,000-square-foot basement had ancient wall-to-wall stained beige carpeting, a bathroom with a plastic shower and a laundry “hole” (as Christine puts it) concealed behind a curtain.
“I wanted it to feel clean and glamorous, but still accessible; put together, but not stuffy. And thus our small flooring project snowballed into a full reno to create a basement that’s modern, urban and main-floor worthy.”
The 1,000-square-foot basement desperately required a makeover, with its ancient wall-to-wall stained beige carpeting and a bathroom with a plastic shower and a laundry “hole” (as Christine puts it) concealed behind a curtain.
The family room’s low off-white wool sectional is durable and comfortable: perfect for watching TV together as a family or for Christine’s eldest daughter, Natasha, to host sleepovers when she’s home from university.
A dramatic oversized print of Adolf Ulrik Wertmuller’s 1785 painting Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Two of Her Children Walking in the Park of Trianon adds a grand, almost palatial, element to homeowner Christine Dovey’s basement family room; it also adds an antiquated foil to all the sleek modern furniture.
The key to making a lower-level space first-floor worthy is to decorate with pieces from your principal rooms. One such example here is the original Platner armchair–scored many years ago on eBay for a bargain – which was relocated from the upstairs living room.
The modern high-gloss floating console is actually kitchen cabinetry from IKEA . Christine had it mounted on the wall to keep the hallway feeling open and airy, and topped it with a quartz countertop. A floating shelf displays artwork and family photos.
In the laundry alcove, Christine made the most of a tiny space: Floating shelves allow for a pretty display, while the addition of a butcher-block countertop provides room for a small sink as well as a place to fold clothes.
Unable to move the laundry nook, Christine got creative and hid the area behind sliding doors. Originally from Romania and painted blue and white, the set of four antique doors was made over with glossy black paint and frosted glass (with the words “laundry room” cheekily etched on) and attached to a track.
Artwork and subway tiles make for a great statement on this laundry room wall.
In Natasha’s bedroom, wall-to-wall painted silk drapery helps disguise the diminutive basement window. The low profile bed frame, with its built-in shelves, suits the small space. The palette, inspired by the colourful rug, is tied together by the oversized artwork painted by Christine.
A custom walk-in shower (a style selected because of the small space bathroom) features a simple but modern design: one large sheet of glass with a grid of powder-coated steel rods that makes it look like a set of windows. Christine says it’s also a dream to clean.
In her go-to black and white palette, Christine created a bathroom that feels at once modern and old-world. “I wanted it to really feel like a subway station in Paris,” she says. So she chose marble basket-weave tiles for the floor and white ceramic subway tiles with dark grout for the walls.
The expanded bathroom – now twice as big as before – does double-duty as an ensuite for Natasha and a guest bathroom, since there’s no powder room on the main floor.
How to wash your pillows to keep them fresh and clean
Essential cleaning tips for keeping your pillows perfectly fresh and stain-free.
Cover them as you may, but pillows still develop odours and stains. Keep them fresh by washing them every three to six months. Our resourceful research editor, Mary Levitski, tells you how.
1 Start by checking the label for laundering instructions. Most newer pillows can be tossed in the washing machine, but some are dry clean only. Also, some fill materials, such as foam, can’t go in the dryer.
2 Use a front-loading washer (a top-loader isn’t suited for fully submerging a pillow). Select the warm water and gentle cycle settings. Add a bit of mild liquid laundry detergent (the powdered kind is harder to wash off). Insert pillows, ensuring they are not packed in tightly. To completely wash off the detergent, repeat the rinse cycle. Do not use the spin cycle unless your pillows are down.
3 To dry, squeeze out any excess water by hand. Put the pillows through a tumble dry cycle set to low heat. Repeat as necessary until completely dry. Pillows that can’t go in the dryer should be hung on a clothesline or rack.
Make a hotel-worthy bed by washing your linens regularly and ironing them with a scented mist like K. Hall Designs Washed Cotton Linen Water (Au Lit Fine Linens, $25). Trust us, you’ll be dreaming of a late checkout.
To extend the life of your pillows, dress them in protective pillow covers before putting on their cases.
Eco-friendly products to keep your pillows plump
On top of being greener and more cost-effective than dryer sheets, reusable balls also prevent pillows from getting lumpy in the dryer.
Scent your laundry with this Canadian brand’s delectable aromas like Apple Pie and Banana Bread. Tumbler tarts fair trade wool dryer balls, The Laundry Tarts, $30 per pack of 3; Re-scenting kit in Apple Pie, The Laundry Tarts, $13.
The prongs of these cute little rubber balls are great for keeping pillows soft and fluffy. Thermoplastic rubber hedgehog dryer balls, West Elm Market, $9 per pair.
These bright all-natural wool balls soften laundry and cut drying time. Wool Deluxe starter dryer balls, LooHoo, $28 US per pack of 3.
A fashionable couple treats their stylish abode as an ever-evolving runway that offers opportunities to strike a decorative pose using their chic collection.
A lot can happen in a year. At this time last year – September, to be exact – designer Matthew Meisner, owner of design firm Heirloom & Knot, moved into a new home in downtown Toronto with his partner, Rick Bettencourt, and Rick’s daughters, Milena, 15, and Celeste, 11, who live there part-time. The 2,100-square-foot three-storey ultra-modern abode had great architectural character and, even better, had recently been renovated. All that it required was a coat of white paint, warm wood elements and a healthy dose of personality – of which the couple has plenty.
Fashionable fiances Rick Bettencourt and Matthew (seated) pose in the living room of their downtown Toronto home.
Art collectors, travellers and curators of quirky vintage finds, the two are fashion savvy to boot. Rick is vice-president of Nine West Canada, so even though Matthew is the professional designer, he still lets stylish Rick provide plenty of input. “I want it to feel like we both contributed equally to the look,” says Matthew.
Take, for example, the wallpapers and textiles on display throughout the home: Most are designed by Matthew for his Heirloom & Knot collection but selected for the interior by his hubby-to-be. “It’s like choosing between my own children,” says Matthew. “I can’t pick favourites, so I leave that to Rick.” The open-concept space is also decorated with relics of the couple’s past, from the antique kitchen scale that was one of the first pieces they purchased together (“out of the garage of a random guy we met on Craigslist,” says the designer with a laugh) to the framed fashion show invites in the powder room (not shown) collected during Rick’s days working as the womens- and menswear director for Holt Renfrew (Prada and Hermès and Alexander McQueen, oh my!). Art purchased on vacations, knick-knacks picked out at antiques markets and a real deer head that’s been in Matthew’s family for years all lend the home its eclectic character while clearly reflecting the fashion-forward couple. “Anywhere we turn in our home, we see something that makes us smile,” says Matthew, noting that there are memories tied to almost every object in their house.
Matthew lugged the huge deer head on the plane home from his parents' cottage in Winnipeg. "It's been in my family for ages," he explains. "My great-uncle accidentally hit the deer with his car when he was young." The bust has lived with Matthew's grandparents and parents and now acts as the perfect pairing for the tartan wool-upholstered sofa in the living room, lending a rustic cabin vibe to this modern eclectic space.
And it’s always evolving. “If I were to describe our home in a sentence,” says Matthew, “I’d say, ‘It’s curated over time and never finished.’” The two buy new pieces whenever something catches their eyes and, as a result, the decor rotates almost twice monthly. “What it looks like now is very different from these pictures,” says Matthew, explaining that while big furniture items stay the same, smaller finds flow in and out. The artwork exhibited on the master bedroom’s feature wall is seemingly switched out more often than that of a commercial gallery, and textiles are turned over seasonally.
Though their house’s interior decor shifts many times in one year, it always feels like home. “We’ve brought in things from former jobs, from frequent travels and from day-to-day life,” says Matthew. “It’s the celebration of everything that has brought us to this point in our lives.”
Credits: Ashley Capp
It’s fitting, because almost one year after moving into their dream home, Matthew and Rick will mark another milestone with their September 2016 wedding. And judging by how their two styles harmonize so perfectly here in this home, we’d say they’re a match made in heaven. Chin-chin!
Designer Matthew Meisner had sections of his Rorschach ink blot test-inspired wallpaper blown up and framed as art for his dining area. It makes for lively dinner discussions: "Everyone has an opinion of what they see," says Matthew, "and it's not always rated PG!"
Credits: Ashley Capp
A dramatic departure from the crisp white envelope of the main living space, the kitchen is decidedly dark. Warming up the existing cabinetry is vinyl wallpaper Matthew designed and named after Rick: Bettencourt Series 2. "It's durable and easy to switch out should we want a new look in the future," says Matthew.
Credits: Ashley Capp
Credits: Ashley Capp
The wall tiles in the master bath are a spin on the classic checkerboard look and a clever design hack - Matthew simply cut adhesive kitchen shelf liner into triangles and stuck it to the existing white tiles (which never get wet).
Credits: Ashley Capp
"I love that the bed frame's cane detail has old-world character while the shape is Mid-Century Modern," says Matthew, who introduces layers of history into his designs.
Credits: Ashley Capp