History and tradition are a big part of how this homeowner decorates for the season. Image by: Robin Stubbert; Styling by Tara Ballantyne
History and tradition are a big part of how this homeowner decorates – and they’re key to how her family celebrates the holidays, too.
It goes without saying that the most memorable family holidays are steeped in nostalgia – blending traditions from past generations with new ones – but they become all the more meaningful when the home itself already has stories to tell. That’s the case in the southern Ontario home Jennifer Jarmuszewski shares with her husband, Colin Todd, and two children, Julia, 9, and Benjamin, 7. The entryway and formal living and dining rooms of their 3,500-square-foot new-build house are decorated in a classic holiday style that perfectly complements the home’s elegant interior, accentuating the art and antiques Jennifer has been collecting most of her life.
To pull together the everyday design of the home and marry her traditional taste with the needs of a young family, Jennifer sought the help of designer Alison Habermehl of Habermehl Design Group. “Luckily I came on board early in the building stage, so we were able to customize the design,” says Alison. “We raised the main-floor doorways and added transoms over them, as well as selected finishes that better suited Jennifer’s style.” The addition of applied mouldings to the entryway and dining room, for example, gives the home architectural distinction, while glass door knobs used throughout are small details that create luxe sparkle.
When it came time to select furnishings, a lot of inspiration was pulled from Jennifer’s belongings. “She has many fine collections,” says Alison, referring to the antique chairs, bird and Staffordshire dog figurines, as well as antique boxes.“To make them all work within the traditional and sophisticated design scheme, I kept like pieces together to avoid a look that’s too precious or cluttered.”
One collection even inspired the dining room’s colour scheme, which matches Jennifer’s treasury of Flow Blue dinnerware (blurred blue and white transferware popular in the 19th century). “I can perfectly remember buying one of the dishes while visiting my grandmother,” says Jennifer. “So many of my pieces are tied to specific memories.”
The blue theme that started with the dinnerware carries through to holiday time. Vibrant blue dishes get layered onto the dinner table alongside beloved Waterford crystal and Wedgwood china. “It’s so lovely to see beautiful crystal and china getting used in a young family home,” says Alison. The tablescape is amplified with green and metallic accents to keep the look modern. Fresh greenery set in one of Jennifer’s antique bowls serves as a striking non-traditional centrepiece, matching the simple evergreen accents elsewhere – an effective way to bring Christmas cheer (and glorious aromas) into the home.
Of course, the same could be said for the Christmas tree, which glitters with blue and silver ornaments that share space with treasured kid-crafted trinkets. “The ones created by my children are my favourites,” says Jennifer. “They’re so fun to pull out every year as the kids get older. They love looking back at what they’ve made.” It’s just another example of how Jennifer’s stunning collections are rooted in time-honoured traditions the whole family will cherish for many Christmases to come.
Homeowner Jennifer Jarmuszewski’s prized collection of rare antique blue transferware – the inspiration for the dining room’s moody blue colour scheme – is prominently displayed in a custom-built hutch with a fresh green-painted interior that makes the plates pop. Simple evergreen wreaths and sprigs on the table add a refined holiday touch to the ultra-elegant space.
Helping decorate the tree is a holiday ritual that Jennifer’s kids, Julia and Benjamin Jarmuszewski, cherish. Glittery blue and silver ornaments mingle with avian-themed ones (inspired by the settee’s bird-print fabric) and, of course, kid-made treasures. But a family favourite is a hinged box ornament with the words “Christmas Wishes” on it. “Before we hang it, we each add a written wish for the coming year,” says Jennifer.
This spot in the dining room was too small for a sideboard, so an antique dresser was used instead. It serves as an ersatz bar, which is convenient for topping up drinks at dinner.
Though they’re newer pieces, the ornate concrete console and architectural reclaimed wood mirror lend the entryway an old-world look that suits the home’s elegance. The voluminous magnolia-leaf garland offers a luxe touch for the holidays.
Jennifer’s Flow Blue dishware – coveted antique transferware with blurred blue and white motifs – makes an eclectic tablescape when mixed with more contemporary gold-detailed plates and green scalloped ones. Adorned with name tags secured to pretty mercury-glass ornaments, each place setting offers a memento guests can take home.
The living room’s slender, curvaceous settee is offset by the geometric gallery wall of small engraved wood artwork grouped above – another example of Jennifer’s passion for collecting. Every time she makes the trip to Stratford, Ont., she can’t resist popping into artist Gerard Brender à Brandis’s studio to purchase another piece to add to the display.
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
Host the most unforgettable holiday party with help from our savvy hostess guide Source: Tracey Ayton
We asked the experts, consulted the pros and tapped into the minds of the most talented to create the ultimate handbook for the holiday hostess.
THROW THE PERFECT PARTY
The dos and don'ts of throwing the perfect party: Find out the ultimate dos and don'ts for throwing a fabulous holiday party from the expert.
SERVE THE PERFECT DINNER
Mark McEwan's 5 tips to serving the perfect dinner: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan is no stranger to dinner parties - both hosting and attending them. Here, he shares his secrets to serving in style.
SET THE PERFECT TABLE
Holiday table setting 101: Easy tips to go from boring to breathtaking
CREATE THE PERFECT COCKTAILS
4 must-try classic cocktail recipes: You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you've been taking secret bartending lessons.
Drink recipe: Grapefruit rose mimosa: This refreshing grapefruit mimosa makes the perfect holiday brunch beverage.
Drink recipe: Ginger pear Bellini: Serve your classic Bellini with a twist by adding sugar pear and ginger liqueur.
Drink recipe: Satsuma sparkle: Freshly squeezed satsuma gives this champagne cocktail its signature fruity flavour.
Drink recipe: Blackberry lime fizz: Serve this fresh and flavourful champagne cocktail at your upcoming holiday party.
DECORATE THE PERFECT GUEST ROOM
How to decorate the perfect guest room for the holidays: The experts dish their tips on preparing for overnight guests this holiday season.
GIVE THE PERFECT HOSTESS GIFT
14 great gift ideas for the holiday hostess: Get holiday party ready with these gift ideas for your holiday host.
Serve your guests these delicious and oh-so-simple to make chocolate tarts!
Enjoy these simple to make and easy to customize chocolate mascarpone tarts
We’ve all been at a dinner party and witnessed the dessert snub – a guest’s nose not-so-subtly turned up at something the host or hostess has laboured over. That will never be the case with these delectable mini tarts, thank you very much. Simple to make and easy to customize, they come with options to suit every palate. We’ll raise a dessert fork to that!
1 To make the pastry, beat the butter with the sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy; beat in the egg yolk and vanilla until combined.
2 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until smooth.
3 Divide the pastry among eight 4" mini tart pans with removable bottoms, pressing the pastry into the bottoms and up the sides of the pans; prick the bottoms all over with a fork.
4 Refrigerate the pastry shells on a rimmed baking sheet until chilled, about 30 minutes.
5 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line each shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 8 minutes. Gently remove the weights and foil; continue to bake the shells until the pastry is no longer shiny, about 10 minutes more. Let the shells cool in the pans on a rack.
6 Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream in three additions. Divide the mascarpone mixture among separate small bowls. Add your flavourings of choice and scoop the mascarpone filling into the tart shells.
7 Add your desired toppings; serve.
Makes: 8 tarts
Try one of our four favourite flavours
1 Double Raspberry: Fold a dash of raspberry liqueur into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
2 Rose & Pistachio: Stir rosewater into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with edible rose petals and chopped toasted pistachios.
3 Mocha: Leave the mascarpone filling as is; top the tart with chocolate-covered espresso beans and white chocolate shavings.
4 Pomegranate Mint: Add a few drops of mint extract into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with pomegranate seeds.
Have fun experimenting with your own flavour combinations - the possibilities are endless!