Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Christine Hanlon
Nest maker, know thyself. Here’s how one designer used self-reflection and simplicity to do up her Toronto Victorian.
“There are thousands of inspiring ideas out there,” says designer Melanie Hay, referring to the wellspring of online home decor images, blogs and shops. “You can literally research for months. But in the end, the best design is born of self-discovery. The more you understand who you are and how you live, the better the odds that the rooms you create will be rooms that you love.”
Melanie should know. When she and her husband, Andrew, an entrepreneur, purchased a tall, narrow Victorian in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood about four years ago, they were two people without a plan – but with about 3,000 square feet of empty space. Needless to say, to a designer like Melanie, this blank canvas meant instant inspiration overload. “My mind was swimming with decorating schemes,” she recalls. “Deep down, though, I knew Andrew and I are nesters, and when we walked in the door, we would want to come home to a space that echoes our life stories.” This is where her approach to decorating the house started.
But it was not as easy as it sounds. “From the beginning, I had to acknowledge that Andrew and I don’t share the same taste,” she says. Melanie loves white; Andrew prefers dark wood. Something had to give. The house already had the towering black doors and high-gloss black banister they both liked, so the couple let these details inspire the look. “Plus, we already owned a black and white rug, a round table with a dark top and a black leather Eames chair, so why not use them?” adds Melanie. Red- and peach-painted walls were redone in shades of light and shadow. Such was the start of what is now the home’s signature black and white colour scheme.
And a little self-reflection went a long way when it came to deciding what to hang on the walls. “Although we appreciate fine art, personal mementoes that connect us to our families matter more,” says Melanie. This realization became the inspiration for the dining room gallery wall. Gathering a few favourite prints, posters and paintings, the designer created a dynamic visual mash-up. The result is a sophisticated yet personal design element. One added bonus? It was totally budget-friendly. “I paired gold-framed heirloom pieces with newer prints in inexpensive white frames to unite the random collection,” explains Melanie. And since not many are forever pieces, she adds or subtracts on a whim. “There are a lot of nail holes in that wall!” she says with a laugh.
In many ways, this ever-evolving approach is a reflection of Melanie’s creativity. “Unlike the homes I design for clients, which are done in one sweep, my house changes constantly. I’ve become incredibly good at moving furniture, which must drive Andrew crazy. This house will never be truly finished,” she says. “And if it ever is, I’ll probably just start over!”
Homeowner and designer Melanie Hay paired her husband’s steel-topped dining table with chairs she bought on Craigslist. “I’ve reupholstered the seats two times already,” she says. Right now, they bear a sophisticated charcoal linen that accentuates the dark walls and striped rug.
“It’s been a bedside table, an end table and a catch- all,” says Melanie of the bar cart she purchased years ago. “Finally, it’s a bar!” The cart is low, however, and the home’s ceilings are very high. To draw the eye upward, she added a painting and a wall-mounted metal stag bust above it.
Melanie scoured big-box stores for large-scale artwork to act as stand-ins for the forever pieces that will eventually accent her living room. That way, she doesn’t have to live with blank walls while she searches for the perfect investments.
The house was built in the early 1900s, but its contemporary fireplace mantel and furnishings achieve an eclectic mix that feels right at home in the space. “If you can’t afford to do a house all at once,” advises Melanie, “then do one room at a time. That way you can afford to invest in key pieces.”
“Decorating one room completely and then carrying that look to the next allows you to really establish a cohesive aesthetic throughout the house,” says Melanie, who started with the living room and finished with the master bedroom, which echoes the rest of the home’s light-meets-dark and modern-meets-traditional themes.
Image by: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
Get the inside scoop on the year's most popular design trends.
Every year brings with it hot new trends and this year’s design trends are sure to get you excited about making some changes at home. Whether you’re thinking about something small scale like painting your powder room in one of the year’s hottest shades or going bigger with beautiful architectural features, these ideas from designers are sure to inspire!
Credit: Amber Interiors
1 "I think that a top design trend will be spaces that are more relaxed and casual with nothing too fussy or sparkly. Call it a restrained and tailored boho aesthetic; think Amber Interiors. Linen or velvet seating (in performance fabrics, of course), a mixture of woods and textures and nothing matching or contrived. Worn, antique area rugs, handmade block print fabrics and a real plant or two add to the layered yet edited feel and give a home soul." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
2 "Look for interior finishings to take centre stage in 2017. While decorative elements like furniture and wallpaper have traditionally set the trends, increasing attention is being paid to the bones of a house. Applied mouldings, interior doors, archways and window casings are becoming more elaborate as homeowners discover that architectural features can make bold statements too." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
3 "Today, forest green has made a comeback and is seen mixed with deep woods and black hardware and punches of brass to make it pop. Go bold and paint a powder room green. Pair with an antique chest turned-vanity and some brass pulls and brass faucet." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford / Design: Jessica Claire Interiors
4 "My favourite design for 2017 is wallpaper that mimics a wall mural. There are some incredible designs on the market where wallcoverings depict designs like large scale florals or hand painted landscapes. The dramatic impact is pretty incredible, and I love how it adds a bit of a handmade influence to any room." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
Credit: Colette Grand Cafe
5 "One top design trend is to introduce unconventional design elements into our homes. Whether your inspiration is a sensational bar shelf suspended from the ceiling at Colette, the stunning floor to ceiling glass walls at The Chase Toronto, or the metal trim detail between floor tiles at most commercial spaces, 2017 is the year for innovative ideas so why not be inspired by our favourite restaurants or the beautifully designed stores as we shop for the holidays?" - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
6 "Loft-inspired design has been around for few decades but we're seeing a resurgence of this trend with the black steel factory door. The large black grid of these elegant beauties are not only attractive but they provide great sight lines to the outdoors, further forging the relationship between indoor and outdoor living. They can easily elevate any modern or traditional home whether as a patio door, room divider or shower door. With this much versatility, it's easy to see why the black steel factory door is expected to be a big winner in 2017!" - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Michael Graydon / Design: Sam Sacks Design
7 "Give way to lighter woods! We’re seeing a move towards a blonder, natural looking wood from floor to ceiling. Wider plank hardwood with an oiled/ matte finish is a great choice in creating visual interest and providing a neutral backdrop for furniture and other interior elements. Natural, rift cut oak is a great option for cabinetry, pairing well with walnut and darker woods and even painted finishes. Light wood is extremely versatile and a great way to add warmth and texture throughout a home without it feeling overpowering or heavy." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.
Peonies wallpaper in Copper by Rifle Paper Co.
Wake up your space with one of these graphic and colourful wallcoverings.
Graphic and gripping, colourful and curious, bold and bright – these imaginative wallcoverings are no wallflowers, and they’re sure to energize any area of your home.
Few wallpaper designs are able to draw us into a world of whimsy quite like this quirky and colourful hot air balloon print. It’s the perfect fit for a bright modern nursery or an eclectic workspace. Schumacher Balloons wallpaper in Multi, through designers, Bilbrough & Co., $372 per single roll.
Inspired by the intricate shapes of crystals, this graphic wallpaper will literally have you peering at a room from an entirely new angle. Add to the unexpected look by opting for it in an emerald green hue. Cole & Son Curio Quartz wallpaper in Emerald Green, through designers, Kravet Canada, $234 per double roll.
Channel the tropics with this vibrant Osborne & Little wallpaper, which showcases flamingos peering through exotic flora. As far as we’re concerned, the flamingo trend is here to stay. Osborne & Little Matthew Williamson Cubana Flamingo Club W6800 wallpaper in 01, through designers, Primavera, $406 per double roll.
A true showpiece on its own, this bold patterned wallpaper draws from global influences. Featuring exotic flora and fauna, the print reflects a life well travelled. Thibaut Trade Routes Goa wallpaper in Blue, through designers, Kravet Canada, $128 per single roll.
Beloved stationary brand Rifle Paper Co. partnered with modern fabric company Hygge & West to bring forth beautifully designed wall coverings, such as this oh-so-dainty and delightful floral print. Peonies wallpaper in Copper, Rifle Paper Co., $190 US per double roll.
Portland-based interior designer Caitlin Wilson knows a thing or two about fashioning pretty and playful textiles. Take this delicate floral wallpaper for instance, which has a way of breathing new life into a space. Blooms Grande wallpaper in White, Caitlin Wilson, $178 US per double roll.
Add dimension and personality to your space with elegant wallpaper like this hand-screen printed option from designer Jill Malek. It will instantly lend your home a feminine glam feel. Peel wallpaper in Blush Gold, Jill Malek, $170 per single roll.
If there’s going to be an elephant in the room, it might as well be through this eclectic black and white wallpaper. While it may be tempting to apply the paper on multiple surfaces, we suggest starting small and using it to create an accent wall. Abnormals Anonymous Gossip wallpaper in Men in Black, NewWall, $95 per yard.
Enjoy this fresh watercress, feta and farro salad any day of the week.
Learn how to make this bright and colourful salad from Jeanine Donofrio's The Love & Lemons Cookbook.
1 Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the farro and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender; drain and set aside.
2 In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic and maple syrup; season to taste with salt and pepper.
3 Toss the cooked farro in a large bowl with the radish slices, cherries, walnuts, feta and vinaigrette. Add the watercress, basil and mint and gently toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Cook time: 1 hour
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Excerpted from The Love & Lemons Cookbook by Jeanine Donofrio. Recipes Copyright © 2015 Jeanine Donofrio, Photography copyright © 2015 Jack Mathews. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.