Image: Robin Stubbert
Decorator Cynthia Weber shares her five secrets to creating an office as big on style as it is on function.
Set on the top floor of her 1878 stone home boasting sweeping views of Ontario’s Huron County, decorator Cynthia Weber’s quaint office is down-right pastoral. The 225-square-foot space, with its formal farmhouse aesthetic, serves as the ideal spot for Cynthia to meet clients and plan projects – many of which are cottages or historic restorations, such as The Little Inn of Bayfield (featured in Style at Home’s December 2016 issue). “My clients are drawn to the look and lifestyle I’ve created. It makes perfect sense to meet with them here,” says Cynthia, who mixed library-style shelving and beloved vintage furnishings with portable pieces that offer smart storage yet deliver quintessential charm. “I can’t imagine any other setting being more conducive to creativity,” she says, noting that she simply looks out the huge windows to the pretty pasture below when she needs a pick-me-up. “This space makes me happy and therefore productive.” Here’s how the decorator made it work.
The key to creating a workspace where you don’t mind logging long hours? Appoint it with meaningful pieces, such as this desk and the dining chairs, which all came from Cynthia’s aunt and uncle. “They’re very special to me,” she says. “Although sometimes I wish the desk were bigger, nostalgia keeps me using it.”
“I love corkboards,” says Cynthia, who has two in her office and uses them to corral inspiration and materials for ongoing projects. “The boards don’t always look this pretty,” she admits, but their designer edge keeps them worth admiring. Cynthia’s husband fashioned the frames from mouldings, and she painted them black to match her desk and added a pretty ribbon detail.
A chic custom carpet tile adorned with the Cynthia Weber Design logo serves as simple one-of-a-kind artwork that speaks to the space’s style and purpose.
“Think about the tasks you do throughout your day, making a list of what you need regularly and what you require only once in a while,” advises Cynthia. “Then ask yourself what you’ll need in terms of surfaces and storage.” To that end, she designed custom tray tables that can be easily collapsed when not in use, and opted for baskets to stow the materials for current projects.
Maximize floor space by building up. This wall of shelving stretches to the ceiling and stores fabric and wallpaper books as well as design catalogues. The ladder, which can be pushed flat to the shelves, adds a lovely library-like feel. Cynthia cleverly had wall hooks installed so she could hang the books retrieved from up high instead of struggling down the ladder with them.
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Photography: Tracey Ayton
With a plan in hand and some professional guidance, these homeowners take the reins of the modern design of their spacious new home.
Wing Lau and Kevin Teo bought their first Vancouver condo because of its easy access to work and the downtown amenities – charming restaurants, chic boutiques, art galleries and more. The problem? The one-bedroom-plus-den was a tight fit for the young couple and their two dogs. “We were barely ever home because it was so cramped,” remembers Wing. Add the fact that they were recently married and planning to expand the family, and 600-square-feet wasn’t going to cut it. For these IT professionals, though, a house wasn’t the answer. “That’s too much maintenance,” says Wing.
The solution was moving to a larger condo – a new build with panoramic views and breathing room thanks to a second bedroom and bathroom, as well as a den. Being a blank slate, however, it lacked character. “We found someone to inject some flair into the place,” says Wing, referring to designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors.
After researching Jamie’s work online, Wing realized the company was a great fit – and not just because she liked her style. Wing is hands-on when it comes to her home. A decor enthusiast and avid DIYer, she needed a design partner, not a leader, and Jamie’s firm allows homeowners to buy blocks of time to customize the level of service, from light guidance to full execution. So Wing requested Jamie’s advice on layouts and furniture selection, and then chose her favourites. She did much of the shopping and implementation herself.
Central to the 24th-floor condo are the living-dining area’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which showcase mountain views. They’re what sold the couple on the home and naturally became a central focus for the open-concept main living area. The room’s muted colour scheme provides the perfect frame for the vista – and also reflects Wing’s personal palette. “I only ever wear black, white or grey,” she says. “So it was an easy choice.”
With its seamless modern scheme, the kitchen was another selling point for Wing and Kevin, and required no design updates. “We got lucky that this kitchen already had a look we both love,” says Wing. The cabinet fronts and island base boast a unique striated grain in warm grey and cool taupe that lends the space artistic interest and texture all on its own – no extra design flourishes required.
Though Wing had originally wanted a concrete-look accent wall in the dining area, they were concerned it would compete with the kitchen. So they settled on a dining room gallery wall – which Kevin took total ownership of – and created the feature wall in the master bedroom instead. Complementing the concrete-look surface, a custom fabric-covered headboard that stretches the entire length of one wall visually widens the space and offers a structured, unfussy vibe.
In their new space, the couple feels proud and happy. There's something gratifying about executing a flawless design as an amateur, even when it's with significant help from a professional. Though the idea of a forever home isn't something they can commit to right now, this will be their domain for at least five years. "Until we outgrow it," says Wing, "or my design bug bites again." Maybe next time she'll brave it on her own.
Homeowners Wing Lau and Kevin Teo didn’t need designer Jamie Deck’s help in designing their gallery wall. Wing has been pinning favourite pieces for years and opted for a combination of personal photos and low-cost prints. Kevin was in charge of installation. “We had painters’ tape all over the floor and outlining the gallery wall to make sure the configuration was right,” says Wing of organizing the graphic black and white pieces in the dining room.
Wing swapped the condo’s living and dining areas to create a larger and more functional living room. After all, it has to handle the couple’s two dogs and, at some point, kids. The carpet was chosen in part for its low, easy-to-clean pile (so the battle against dog hair isn’t too taxing).
For Wing, it was important to mix high and low pieces. The Parsons dining table, for example, was a total splurge. The couple saw the piece in Seattle, fell in love with it and returned to the city two months later to haul it home in the family van. It’s something Wing plans to hang on to for a long time: “My future kids will probably spill on the table,” says Wing with a laugh. “But we’re okay with that.”
Prior to purchasing any furniture, the couple brought home fabric swatches to ensure everything matched with the kitchen cabinetry. “With its interesting grain, it almost plays the role of a feature wall,” says Wing. So it dictated what she and Kevin did with the rest of the space. “We couldn’t choose anything that competed with that.”
The kitchen is the literal and figurative centre of the apartment: It overlooks the living and dining room, benefits from the stunning view out the floor-to-ceiling windows and is a place Wing and Kevin spend a lot of time, doing everything from cooking breakfast to entertaining company.
Jamie suggested multiple furniture configurations for the master bedroom, but they settled on a set-up that takes advantage of the mountain views. The space is a lesson in how to create a successful high-low mix: The head-board was custom-made by Shift Interiors, but Kevin painted the concrete-look feature wall himself. The bedding and toss cushions are big-box-store finds.
With its simple mirror, metal console and wooden stool, the entryway announces the muted palette present throughout the space. Floating circular hooks offer a functional yet chic place to hang coats.
The bathroom echoes the kitchen with the same seamless cabinetry, but the countertop adds another layer of pattern that the kitchen lacks, proving it’s easy to be more daring with design in closed-off spaces. His and hers sinks allow for stress-free mornings.
Image: Tracey Ayton
Five ways to make a spotlight-worthy entry(way) – without sacrificing functionality.
Sashay onto an empty stage, strike a pose in your favourite clothes and make a statement that reflects who you are: That’s how to make a strong first impression, which is exactly what an entryway does for your home. It hints at the personality inside while beckoning guests to learn more.
No one knows this better than designer Chrissy Cottrell. When hired to decorate this Vancouver home for a mother and her 20-something daughter, Chrissy envisioned a high-fashion hybrid of Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn – a feminine take on French Modern style. And that is what’s immediately apparent when you step through the front door, from the pale pink upholstery to the Art Deco details, not to mention the pretty Parisian streetscape artwork and chic designer purses on display. Plus, the space is functional and hard-working, with ample storage for the fashionable accessories two style-loving women are bound to accumulate.
Keeping style and function at the forefront, here are five ways to make your entryway more memorable.
Your entryway is your home’s first impression: Like a book cover, it hints at what’s inside. So make it deliver a snapshot of your style, employing the palettes and patterns that adorn the rest of your abode.
A bold front door is an easy way to make a statement from the start. “An entryway has to have presence,” says Vancouver designer Chrissy Cottrell of her decision to paint the door a dramatic black.
Custom-fitted with pretty hardware, a big-box-store shoe cabinet delivers sleek style and function to boot (pun intended). The fashionable piece is a must-have for any entryway because, let’s face it, most front hall closets just aren’t big enough to hold all of our favourite footwear.
By turns a spot for pulling on shoes and setting down the things you need on your way out the door, simple seating like this pair of pink upholstered benches will definitely come in handy. Even better? These double-duty beauties can be moved to the living room for extra seating when company comes over.
Bright brushed brass hooks deliver unexpected shine in the otherwise muted space. Simple and unobtrusive, they’re perfect for putting designer purses and pretty scarves on display.