Image: Angus Fergusson
A Toronto designer saves a lot of money and time when creating an elegant yet approachable living room for her young family.
They say time is money, and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg was keen to conserve both when she endeavoured to beautify her living room. The busy mom of three and her husband, Don Saynor, had recently renovated the main floor of their 2,000-square-foot Toronto home, netting the room a crisp envelope of fresh white walls, black-framed windows and wide-plank hardwood floors. The decor, however, left much to be desired. “We had our dog crate in there and our TV on this little side table,” says Stacy. “The room had a sad university student vibe.”
The space needed a decorative growth spurt, so Stacy began by splurging on a designer drapery fabric that echoed the monochromatic-plus-yellow palette of the adjacent kitchen (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue). To further elevate the room, she sourced a high-end grasscloth wallpaper and accented the fireplace wall with it. “Once you have a couple of investment pieces, you can play with lower-cost elements,” says the designer, who applied the principle here: While some of the furnishings – including the velvet swivel chair and statuesque side table – are affordable new purchases, others, such as the celestial-patterned bench and glam gold coffee table, are actually inexpensive second-hand items Stacy had updated. And the chic William Birch-style sofa? It’s an existing piece the designer updated by replacing the back cushions with some throw pillows. Budget-friendly artwork and other accessories, ranging from high to low, finish the room.
Sporting a chic California-cool look, the resulting space seems like a tall order, but it only took a couple of weeks to pull together – proof that style need not suffer if you’re strapped for time and cash.
In a low-budget few-week makeover, homeowner and designer Stacy Begg gave her living room a California-cool look. Against a neutral backdrop, elements like floral drapery, a gold-painted bamboo coffee table and a funky celestial-inspired bench offer a sunny, relaxed vibe.
The chic bar cart was an on-sale buy and the landscape photograph above an existing piece.
Custom drapery made from vibrant designer fabric enlivens the room.
Stacy opted for a floral drapery fabric in white, black and yellow that echoes the palette of her adjacent kitchen. “That was my jumping-off point,” she says. “I really love the yellow.” Other elements like the grasscloth wallpaper, berber-style rug and hits of brass add texture and warmth. The graphic black and white print provides contrast, and the faux encaustic hearth tiles evoke the popular Tuscan trend.
The original fireplace, which juts out past the chimney breast on either side, precluded custom built-in storage. “It was for the best,” says Stacy, who opted to hang floating shelves instead. “They were a fraction of the cost and went up in no time!” Accessorized with pieces from the designer’s stash of styling gear, the substitutes look no worse than the built-ins would have.
The fireplace, which got a crisp drywall job during a recent reno, needed some character, stat. Stacy highlighted it by covering the surrounding wall with a rich taupe sisal grasscloth – a project she and a friend completed in less than a day.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
Use fresh peaches for this delicious dessert recipe.
Our delicious crumbly topped buckle comes with a hit of sour cream for a dessert that’s peach perfect!
Fuzzy peaches are ripe for the pickin’ right now, so make the most of their juicy sweetness by baking a moist and tender coffee cake.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
2 With the mixer still running, add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the sour cream and almond extract.
3 Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4 Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
5 Butter and flour a 9" round deep-dish pie pan.
6 Pour half of the batter evenly into the pie pan and layer 2 cups of the peach slices overtop.
7 Repeat with the remaining batter and peach slices.
8 To make the streusel topping, in a small bowl, work together the butter and the flour with your fingers until a coarse meal forms. Stir in the almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the peach slices.
9 Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the buckle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream on the side.
Serves: 8 to 10
This radiant living room is layered with fresh prints reminiscent of the beach.
Designer Robyn Rider’s use of juicy prints and vivid hues ensures there’s never a dull moment in this Palm Beach-inspired Victorian home.
Much like people, houses have personalities. Some homes – let’s call them the introverts – conjure up cool elegance. Others are like peacocks: a bold bunch of extroverts boasting pattern and colour. The latter describes this 2,400-square-foot four-bedroom Victorian semi in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood. Designed by Robyn Rider of Robyn Madeline Interiors, the cheery home – with its eye-catching prints in blue and white and fresh coral and green accents – takes its cues from Palm Beach, Fla., which is meaningful to the young family of three living here. “We’ve been visiting Palm Beach for the last 15 years,” says one of the homeowners. Not just bold and bright, the design has all the hallmarks of that eclectic coastal style, from the crisp white walls to the mix of natural materials, such as linen and bamboo, as well as quirky touches like the artichoke lamp and chinoiserie plant pots.
It’s exactly what the homeowners wanted. They first spotted Robyn’s work on Instagram and immediately connected with her style, exemplified in her gallery of lively rooms filled with florals, stripes and Greek key motifs that delightfully pop against neutral backdrops. “Robyn’s tastes are very similar to ours,” says the husband, who admits he prefers a brighter palette than his wife does – “I know, it’s opposite of the norm,” he adds with a laugh. But luckily, she didn’t need much convincing, and the couple called on the designer to start as soon as possible.
When Robyn arrived on the scene, the architect and contractor had already removed a structural wall that had split the back of the house into two skinny, awkward rooms. The new layout allowed for an open-flow kitchen with an eat-in area, a petite powder room and a comfy family room (not shown). The wall that divides the back of the house from the front (with its living room and entryway) stayed intact, and the kitchen’s added Dutch door, painted a snappy navy blue, connects the two areas.
Such separation is surprising, considering the trend is to leave no wall standing, keeping a communal space as open as possible. But this family needed function, says Robyn. The homeowners requested the Dutch door (split horizontally, so the top half can open while the bottom stays fixed) to keep their one-year-old daughter contained. “It’s much nicer than an unsightly baby gate,” says Robyn.
This division also allows the house to have two moods: more formal in the front (think eclectic parlour) and relaxed and kid-friendly at the back (from the eat-in area’s hard-wearing 12-foot-long banquette to the slipcovered sofa in the family room). What joins the two spaces, though, is the joyful palette. “It’s the first thing you notice when you walk in the house,” says Robyn, referring to the living room and its floral-patterned armchairs.
But she made sure to use pattern sparingly, so the scheme can be easily switched up should the homeowners tire of it. “The room’s foil is decidedly neutral. Reupholster the chairs and change the toss cushions, and you have a whole new look,” says Robyn.
Tastes evolve, after all, and what’s important in a home is that it speaks to its inhabitants. And Robyn is sure that, like her, these homeowners will always gravitate to rooms that aren’t stuffy. Last year, they hosted a boisterous party during the NHL playoffs: “We had people all over: on the sofa in the family room, on the eat-in area’s banquette, at the kitchen island and in the backyard – you can see the TV from there,” recalls one of the homeowners, who says it was truly memorable for everyone in attendance. Happy houses have that effect on people.
“White kitchens never go out of style,” says one of the homeowners of the choice to go classic with crown moulding, Caesarstone countertops and a Calacatta marble subway tile backsplash. A Dutch door, made out of two custom ones, divides the front of the house from the back.
In the radiant living room of this Toronto Victorian, designer Robyn Rider layered fresh prints that bring to mind the beach. The bold botanical armchair fabric takes centre stage, while the rug and drapery’s subtle patterns play supporting roles. “Too much pattern can make a space feel cluttered and less sophisticated,” warns Robyn.
A lively tableau under the living room’s original stained glass window features the glitz and glamour associated with Hollywood Regency decor, including a gilded artichoke table lamp, a lacquered desk, a retro bamboo chair and a chinoiserie pot.
“It’s a small space, so it can take it,” says Robyn of going for drama in the petite powder room.
“Blue and white is one of my favourite colour combinations,” says Robyn (pictured). “It’s so fresh and happy.”