Holiday cookie swap contest
Holiday cookie swap contest
Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Ann Marie Favot
A black and white palette, square-tiled backsplash, shaker-style cabinetry and iconic furnishings blend perfectly in this modern and traditional space.
Armed with a wishlist a mile long, Toronto homeowners Meghan Mann and Mike Shannon took the renovation plunge last year. With the help of designers Vanessa Kwan and Ingrid Oomen of Qummunicate, they transformed their dysfunctional, dowdy kitchen into a stylish dream and fit everything they wanted into its compact 198-square-foot space. The open-concept design now features a work station, an eat-in nook and a peninsula that overlooks the dining area. Its classic-chic look with a contemporary edge not only complements the young couple’s style but also suits the 1910 house’s traditional architecture and its up-and-coming west Toronto neighbourhood’s trendy vibe.
Opening up the 11-by-18-foot kitchen to the rest of the main floor and replacing the back wall with a glass-panelled door and sidelights were the first steps in creating a more airy and light-filled space. The kitchen has a timeless aesthetic, with Shaker-style cabinetry, classic architectural details and a neutral palette, while a few of-the-moment touches, such as the brass hardware and pendant lights, keep it hip. “It’s a brick house with traditional details like beams and mouldings at the front, and we wanted to carry that essence into the kitchen,” says designer Vanessa Kwan.
A banquette serves as part of the casual eat-in area for the couple and their children, Sadie, 6, and Spencer, 2. It features storage in the form of legal-sized filing cabinets, with flush brass pulls that don’t get in the way of dangling feet. Finding a table that fit the space proved challenging, so homeowner Mike Shannon built the base himself and had a piece of glass cut for the top. The Eames chairs are a classic pick, and the chandelier provides sparkle and blends in with all the brass.
The kitchen was designed with family-friendly functionality top of mind: The white quartzite countertops are aesthetically similar to marble but are more durable and require less maintenance; the six-inch-square ceramic tiled backsplash, with its grey grout, is easy to keep clean; and the cork floors are great for kids because they’re soft underfoot and don’t scratch easily. For homeowner Meghan Mann, who works in software sales from home, the desk area (with a lower counter and two pencil drawers) was a must.
The black faucets and window frame above the sink create contrast yet establish continuity with the black-painted door at the back of the room. The dark elements, offering the kitchen a slightly industrial edge, are also a nod to the neighbourhood’s commercial architecture. “The area has a lot of old factory buildings, some converted into lofts or artists’ spaces,” says Meghan. “And they have those steel windows, so we wanted to echo that look in the kitchen.”
Curvy iconic shapes and trendy accents make this kitchen down-right covetable.
Round wood and marble serving board, Indigo, $38.
Michael Thonet beech era stool in Black, Design Within Reach, $365.
Cotton Soiree toss cushion in Natural with feather-down insert, CB2, $63.
Jason Wu for brizo mixed metal solna faucet in Matte Black, Masco Canada, $611.
Brass and glass Luna pendant light with shade in Clear, 12", Schoolhouse Electric, $269 US.
Cowhide Koldby rug in Brown, IKEA, $299.
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.
DIY project: Stylish storage cabinet
An unused front yard is brought to life.
A compelling contrast of textures brings this verdant Vancouver front yard to life.
When the opportunity to enliven an outdoor space arises, few homeowners focus on the front yard, but for one Vancouver couple, who grew tired of walking down chipped concrete steps and passing worn-wood retaining walls to enter their home, it was the area they were most eager to renovate. In 2013, the pair enlisted landscape designer Sarah Carver of Haven Garden Design to devise a functional front garden that would make a glowing first impression (in addition to updating their backyard). “We wanted to create a strong sense of arrival when you enter the property,” says Sarah.
In order to achieve this, the designer used the house’s contemporary cube-shaped facade as the jumping-off point, opting for concrete slabs set in a geometric design to juxtapose the lush and textured plant combinations. The homeowners also wanted to establish a visual connection with the indoors, so Sarah strategically positioned the outdoor sitting area adjacent to the living room and had lights embedded in the concrete and interspersed among the plants throughout the yard. Now, the couple can appreciate the garden’s beauty from inside or out – whether they’re sipping coffee in the courtyard in the early morning or admiring the view from the sofa come sunset.
“They’ll often open up the living room window coverings when they entertain to animate the indoors at night,” says Sarah. The designer’s careful eye for detail makes the outdoor space more than just an arresting entrance. Float down the front steps and you’ll be taken by a tangle of large trees grounded by a rich palette of plants like chartreuse hostas and deep burgundy heucheras, which work with the hardscaping for a result that’s truly distinct. “It’s not about getting from A to B quickly,” says Sarah. “It’s about the experience.”
Garden stats: A front garden featuring geometric concrete hardscaping juxtaposed with a jumble of lively and lush plant varieties.
Size: 25' x 33'
Focus: Low-maintenance part-shade perennials.
For the walkway, landscape designer Sarah Carver opted for shorter stairs with deeper treads (14 inches instead of the standard 12-inch size), along with a large landing “to make the experience more comfortable and leisurely,” she says. Every aspect of the design follows a grid pattern, even the score lines in the concrete, which prevent cracking and lend symmetry and interest. In the evening, lights set within the concrete illuminate the stairs.
To maximize every inch of space, Sarah had the concrete borders surrounding the courtyard raised to seat height and ensured they would be wide enough to accommodate outdoor cushions. “We knew creating a typical furniture layout would be difficult, so this is like built-in furniture that doubles as retaining walls,” she says. In the garden, a Japanese maple nestled in a nook beside the staircase offers privacy from the street, while purple plants, such as hebes and ageratum peppered along the edges, add colourful contrast.
Clockwise from top left: A vibrant green magnolia tree livens up the sitting area, even before exposing its brilliant white blooms (“I try to have something catch the eye, no matter the season,” says Sarah); deep purple heucheras conform to the garden’s quiet colour palette and deliver plenty of texture; to reduce maintenance, the designer sought out shade-loving companion plants like hostas and Japanese forest grass, which flourish under the same conditions; Sarah chose silvery purple Japanese painted ferns to lend the garden a contemporary feel and pick up on the grey tone of the concrete (“there’s a thread of consistency throughout,” she says).
5 easy care perennials: Give your garden long-term interest with these showy low-maintenance plants.