Daring and dramatic decor using a high-contrast palette
Artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos shares design tips for adding dramatic interest to her small space.
Find helpful design tips from artist and owner of Made By Girl, Jen Ramos's stylish New York City abode.
Drama defines this apartment’s small entryway. Homeowner Jen Ramos painted swatches of high-gloss black on top of the matte black walls, which serve as a bold backdrop to a console accented in gold. An organic-shaped white mirror offers a fresh counterpoint.
"To take attention away from the odd indentation behind the sofa in the living room, we created faux panelling with black paint,” says Jen. The treatment also enhances the graphic artwork and lively mix of toss cushions.
Faux fur toss cushions add lushness to a sleek leather daybed, which hides an unsightly radiator. Placed beside a marble-topped coffee table, a pair of python-print stools creates a conversation area without taking up much square footage in the small living room.
Jen and her husband, Mat, customized an inexpensive sideboard, adding an ebony-stained reclaimed-wood top and finishing it with gold knobs to provide much-needed storage to the cramped living room. Jen keeps its surface relatively clear so that it won’t compete with the treasure-filled bookshelf.
Gold is Jen’s go-to metallic for adding instant shine and standout glamour. In the entryway, brass horse-head hooks offer intriguing function and organic form. Here, Jen loves to display her favourite Rebecca Minkoff bag – it’s ready to grab and go when she’s heading out the door.
Jen needed a large work table in her office/studio, so she and Mat merged two storage cabinets and affixed a countertop to the surface.
Normally a diehard fan of gold, Jen brought in silver for this high-impact installation of her graphic love print. She mounted 12 posters made of metallic foil on heavy card stock, alternating gold and silver to showcase the warm and cool tones.
When living in a small space, every inch has possibilities – even a ledge. “I like to use decorative and personal items that reflect light and shine in the sun,” says Jen.
Jen created a sophisticated vignette in the master bedroom by painting a ceramic lamp base glossy black and placing it on an ebony-stained nightstand, both of which disappear against the soft black wall.
In the master bedroom, Jen painted the wall behind the bed black, allowing the white bedding and leather headboard to provide relief. A gallery wall breaks up the darkness. “I used personal art and photos, while mixing up their frames; it makes things more interesting,” says Jen.
This Toronto dwelling, with its book-laden walls and cozy corners, is a reader's dream.
Easygoing, trusting and super stylish: These homeowners were downright dream clients for designer Robyn Rider, whom they hired to revamp their newly purchased three-bedroom dwelling in downtown Toronto. The protege of the designer who’d transformed their previous house, Robyn was the prime candidate to deliver an updated look to these downsizing lawyers’ home.
“They have great taste and great pieces to work with,” says Robyn – plus, lots of books. Though the homeowners significantly reduced their large book collection, the remaining titles were more than substantial, including legal references, favourite reads, hardcover sets and prized heirlooms. It’s only fitting, then, that the only directive Robyn was given was to accommodate this veritable library, which ended up dictating much of the main floor’s design.
Robyn added floor-to-ceiling bookcases throughout the entire main level to achieve the perfect marriage of library and living space. This is especially evident in the dining room, which she designed as a place to not only eat meals and host dinner parties but also to lounge by the fire with a good book. To that effect, a cozy armchair by the fireplace is accompanied by a reading lamp and footstool, and the banquette at the round urn-based dining table is extra-deep and extra-comfy. “I wanted to create an intimate area that could accommodate guests, but where the homeowners wouldn’t feel ridiculous when it’s just the two of them,” says Robyn.
While the central kitchen marks a bit of a departure from the scholarly look, it still feels like a seamless part of the open-concept living area. “I used cabinets featuring the same profile and colour as the millwork in the adjacent dining and living rooms,” says Robyn. Integrated and panelled appliances as well as cabinetry with footed toe kicks lend the space a furnished feel, while oversized lantern-style pendant lights above the island are the kind you might find over a formal dining table, further blending the lines between the cooking zone and the rest of the home.
After all, the kitchen leads right into the living room, which returns to books. “I didn’t even try to organize or colour code them,” says Robyn of her approach to keeping the look cohesive. “It would have felt too contrived.” (Plus, the husband is pretty particular about organizing things by subject.) So, to temper the mismatched assortment, Robyn created a serene envelope of white millwork and cream walls, which she used throughout the main level. “We could afford to be quieter with the paint palette considering the books and the bold textiles,” she explains, noting examples like the traditional multi-hued heirloom needlepoint rug and contemporary zigzag-patterned armchairs. “The homeowners definitely didn’t need to be convinced to use colour,” says Robyn. “It actually took some convincing to leave the walls neutral!”
Once Robyn finessed the final details of the newly designed house, the homeowners unpacked and arranged their last tomes onto the shelves, ready to begin their new chapter.
French doors – which lead to a backyard oasis that borders a ravine – let a tremendous amount of light into the living room of this Toronto house designed by Robyn Rider. Because of the kitchen’s proximity to this space, it was decorated with statement pieces, such as oversized lantern-style pendant lights, to unify the areas.
Black soapstone counter- tops break up the white kitchen cabinetry that would have otherwise looked too clinical in this cozy space. Even though it’s quite high maintenance, soapstone adds warmth and lustre. “It’s an extra layer of luxury,” says Robyn.
The first space you see when you walk through the front door is the powder room. It sets the tone for the punchy greens and bold prints used throughout the rest of the house.
The library-inspired living room features clever design details, such as space-saving pull-out shelves in place of side tables. “I was channelling British townhouse style, in which everything has a purpose,” says Robyn.
Reminding Robyn (pictured right) of gardens in Provence, the table base, an oversized urn, was the jumping-off point for the dining room’s palette. “I love its intense green colour,” says the designer, “and I just went with it!” The homeowners also love the extra-deep banquette. Robyn used a bold botanical print on the Roman shades to blur the border between indoors and out, imparting a lively and verdant atmosphere.
A dining area and reading nook rolled into one, this room sees a lot of action. The bookcases, lined with selections and collections most meaningful to the homeowners, lend an old-world vibe that is punched up by the fresh armchair fabric.
A serene departure from the rest of the house, the main guest room is soft yet sophisticated. The antique settee is a family heirloom that Robyn had reupholstered with a contemporary centre stripe design. From there, Robyn layered in more powder blue and cream elements into the space but brought in dove grey to counter the femininity. “Powder blue on its own can border on prissy,” she explains.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
A kitchen with subtle contrasts and country character.
Designer Ali Budd gives a Toronto couple the best of both worlds: a family- (and dog-) friendly home that boasts modern sensibility as well as country flair.
When the couple enlisted Ali Budd, the designer asked Michele to provide photos of what she loved and didn’t like. A binder full of clippings verified that Michele prefers clean lines and all things cottage. “The challenge was giving them something that feels fresh and contemporary and appropriate for the city but at the same time has that cottagey country vibe,” says Ali.
An addition on the back of the house allowed homeowners Michele Foster and Aaron Harlang to expand the small kitchen, which now features an eat-in area with a child-friendly faux-leather-upholstered banquette. To enhance the room’s visual flow, the table was made from the same quartz as the countertops. The lantern-style pendant light complements the kitchen’s modern-country aesthetic. “To me, a lantern is quintessentially country, but this one is done in a more contemporary style,” says designer Ali Budd.
Painting the island pale grey gives the all-white kitchen a distinctive touch. The black metal pendant lights and farmhouse-style stools lend contrast and country character.
The inset marble mosaic backsplash tiles surrounded by decorative tile trim create a pretty focal point above the range in the kitchen. “I used the same marble as the subway tiles so it wouldn’t look too busy,” says Ali. Glass-fronted doors add airiness and break up the expanse of white cabinetry.
Opening up the main floor was the first step in creating an airy, functional space for the young family. And an 800-square-foot three-storey addition provided ample room to expand the small, outdated kitchen. “I would periodically use our oven for storage before,” says Michele. “We also had a little table that only sat two people.” Now the kitchen boasts a large eat-in area defined by a built-in banquette, which seats about five people and offers plenty of drawer space.
The kitchen’s eat-in area was the perfect spot to subtly inject a bit of red. “Michele wanted to add it somewhere but was afraid of committing to it,” says Ali. “So I thought that was a great place to put in a little pop because it’s not front and centre.”
Durable indoor-outdoor striped fabric covering the family room’s armchairs adds a bit of whimsy and fun. The custom-made barnboard coffee table is both rustic and polished.
That same rustic-meets-clean-lined aesthetic is carried throughout the main floor. In the dining room, a polished live-edge black walnut dining table is paired with classic linen-upholstered chairs. The family room is designed for lounging, with a sleek sectional and barnboard coffee table. All textiles, including the striped armchair fabric, pass the pug-hair test. “I tested about 20 fabric samples on one of my own pugs to see which showed the least amount of hair,” says Ali.
A bench and rug define the entryway, which is open to the rest of the main floor. Wainscotting along the staircase adds architectural character. “Michele wanted it somewhere, and because there’s not a lot of wall space on the main level, we installed it up the stairs,” says Ali.
A fashionista's walk-in closet gets a much-needed makeover.
Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg gives a once dull walk-in closet a glamorous update.
Though spacious, the frumpy pinstripe-wallpapered walk-in closet was outfitted with only a few precarious rods, a single overhead shelf and some hooks, while an adjacent staircase created an awkward slanted nook at one end.
Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg softened the dressing room’s hardwood floor with an overdyed vintage rug. She layered it with a small sheepskin to ensure comfort underfoot (and under paw – the homeowner’s Siamese cat approves).
Pretty yet functional accessories, including acrylic bracelet holders, a mirrored jewellery box and a plastic makeup sorter, transform the top of a simple dresser into a primping station.
Stacy added a sleek dresser, which stashes socks and skivvies and also serves as a primping station. The inexpensive mirror hung above it completes the ersatz vanity, its chinoiserie-style frame enhancing the asian feel of the accent wallpaper.
Wire mesh pullout baskets keep bed sheets tidy yet visible. “Even if your home has a dedicated linen closet, it makes sense to store bedding in the room in which it’s used,” says Stacy.
Each of this fashion lover’s glamorous garments has a place of its own thanks to IKEA’s super-affordable Algot system, which fits the awkward room like a glove. Everything from blouses and blazers to skirts and slacks is right at eye level on rods, while foldables (such as ts and PJs) are stowed in pullout baskets below and off-season items are stashed in neatly stacked boxes overhead.
Stacy finished the scene with a handful of accessories, including an overdyed vintage rug, a framed print and a cool clock.