Sylvie Masse is no stranger to good design. She's the co-owner of Zig & Zag Design, a Montreal-based firm she runs with business partner Nathalie Paulin; their striking furniture and home accessories are featured in boutiques and well-known retailers across the country. Not surprising, the same eye for detail that she utilizes in her profession shows up in her personal life, too. Using her home as an example, Sylvie shares her basic principles of living in style.
1 Mix form and family
You don't have to forfeit style if you have children -- you can have both. Sylvie's suggestion: "Focus on function." To ensure that a living room is both fashionable and family-friendly, she advises decorating with "indestructible" materials: cover sofas with long-wearing upholstery fabric (linen, twill and canvas) and walls with washable paint, and forgo expensive rugs.
2 Create focal points
For Sylvie, "Awkward spaces cry out to be focal points," so take advantage of unusual areas. Highlight a space with a signature chair or create a vignette with an unused occasional table and a few overlooked accessories. Above all else, "Play with furniture, play with ideas and play with proportion," says Sylvie.
3 Keep kitchens neat
In the kitchen, Sylvie cooks up style by keeping clutter to a minimum. "In North America, we tend to collect things we don't need," she says. She prefers what she terms "a more European kitchen design" - clean, simple and clutter-free.
4 Make formal casual
Sylvie believes that all rooms should be used all the time, and is a big proponent of playing down formal spaces. In fact, in her home, it's not uncommon to find her children painting at the dining room table. Her motto: "Make it light and playful." Just add a few casual touches, like an area rug or a cosy place to sit.
5 Find your inspiration
If you're looking for creative inspiration, think big, says Sylvie. "Try displaying something totally out of context -- play with proportion, play with colour, play around."
6 Breathe new life into old furniture
"I like to blend antique and contemporary," says Sylvie. To do that, she uses a sense of humour and a laissez-faire approach. Her style is to mix unexpected fabrics and splashes of colour with formal design.
7 Play with colour
Colour unifies a house. When choosing a colour scheme, stay within colour families, says Sylvie. "Think orange, red and fuchsia, or blue, turquoise and green." By keeping within those guidelines, you have the freedom to choose between playing with patterns (as is the case with Sylvie's home, where plaids, florals and stripes are mixed and matched) or working with solid colours. Sylvie suggests using different textured fabrics, such as linen and velvet, to bring depth and dimension to a room.
8 Work with white
Whether you're colour-phobic or a fan of intense shades, Sylvie's recipe for picking a palette is sure to work for you. "Keep the background basic," she says. Sticking to one neutral shade, like white or grey, for walls, window coverings and upholstered furnishings lets you play with colourful accessories. It also lends a sense of calm to a space, creates continuity and a harmonious look, and allows you to change accent colours easily and economically.
9 Stick with the traditional
Decorating has as much to do with imagination as it does with consideration. Respecting your home's original character is key. When you do so, not only do you ensure a sense of continuity, but you also create a timeless aesthetic. As Sylvie says of her bathroom, "This look doesn't age, which means I don't have to redecorate for another 50 years."
10 Design restful spaces
When designing a soothing space, Sylvie advises creating a room as "a backdrop." Keep distractions such as patterned fabric, paintings, furnishings and colour to an absolute minimum. Simply put, stick to the basics.