12 winter cleaning ideas
Things can somehow seem messier, dirtier and less organized during the winter months. Here’s how to tackle it in time to leave you feeling fresh for spring.
Get a head start on spring-cleaning
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.
Photography: Tracey Ayton
Homeowners' contrasting interior design styles come together in a modern-meets-traditional Vancouver home – no compromises necessary.
It all started with the bar. “The homeowners hired me to renovate a little bar area in their family room,” says designer Chrissy Cottrell of Chrissy & Co. Design Savvy. “And I said, ‘Well, if you do that, your kitchen is going to be very jealous!’” The couple took note, and last summer, the small project turned into a full-scale two-month over-haul of their cramped main floor. Chrissy opened up the space, added storage and updated the aesthetic. Here’s how this home was given the grand treatment.
The dark and dated main level of this 3,000-square-foot home suffered from a chopped-up layout and a look that could best be characterized as nondescript. “It was very fragmented,” says Chrissy. “For such a big place, it only made sense that it have an open-concept floor plan.” In addition to poor flow, the space had a cluttered feel due to insufficient storage. The ho-hum house was also in need of some architectural interest.
A bit of Pinterest surfing indicated the homeowners’ differing styles – she gravitates toward traditional pieces; he likes modern, clean lines. Armed with this information, Chrissy sought to create a space that suited not only their aesthetic preferences but also their lifestyle. “I know they’re planning on having a family,” she says, “so I came up with a design that features kid-friendly finishes and durable furnishings while incorporating both of their styles.”
With a style that Chrissy dubs “eclectic transitional,” the house boasts a bright, organized look that’s both sophisticated and fresh. Juxtapositions of old and new, masculine and feminine, and sleek and ornate create a fine balance. For example, a curvaceous Dutch-style chandelier and ornate gilded mirror offset contemporary furnishings in the living space.
The dining area’s gallery wall was actually created to conceal a TV. “It’s hidden behind the photograph of the horse, which slides up when you press a button on a remote control,” says designer Chrissy Cottrell.
The living area’s fireplace was replaced with a timeless clean-lined version featuring a marble herringbone-tiled surround.
Tearing down the wall between the kitchen and living room and installing sliding glass doors made all the difference: On top of creating a brighter and more open space, it allowed Chrissy to double the kitchen’s size, supplant its eat-in area with a more formal dining spot, and provide better functionality and overall flow. Architectural elements like wire-brushed French white oak floors, fireplaces with marble surrounds and substantial built-ins, inject character. The palette of crisp whites and contrasting neutrals was livened up with a few pops of colour to make the space come alive.
Hand-pressed ceramic subway tiles cover the kitchen walls. With a rippled, slightly imperfect look, they provide intriguing texture and a bit of sparkle. “They have this organic feel to them and subtly reflect the light,” says Chrissy.
The kitchen cabinetry’s soft cream colour is a classic choice that also offers warmth and depth. The exteriors of the brass pendant lights were painted cream to complement the space’s palette.
In the family area, the sofa’s masculine vibe is countered by a pair of smaller-scaled Louis XVI-inspired armchairs. “The only piece of furniture the homeowners wouldn’t part with was the old leather sofa,” says Chrissy. “But it worked out really well!” The gas fireplace was given a facelift with a surround made of 12-by- 24-inch Calacatta marble tiles. “They nicely offset the built-ins, so the wall doesn’t feel too dark,” says the designer.
The family area’s built-ins offer much-needed closed storage and room for display. Painting them a rich charcoal adds handsome contrast, visually differentiates the space from the adjacent kitchen and is a practical choice. “It’s a more livable option than black because all-black surfaces show too much dust,” says Chrissy.
Chrissy painted the entire powder room black. “If you paint a ceiling white in a black room, the eye goes straight to the ceiling before noticing how striking the space is,” she says. Luxurious elements like the marble-look floor and brass-toned faucet enhance the elegant jewel box vibe.
Don't underestimate the power of a stellar side table—it holds the ability to add an instant dose of chic to your living room or bedroom.
Looking for an easy way to upgrade your space with the latest trends? Replace the standard side table beside your sofa or bed with one (or two!) in a stand-out silhouette. To make it easy, we’ve hand-picked the coolest ones to suit every budget. From a brushed brass pedestal option to a wood retro pick, these stylish pieces are sure to make your room so much sleeker.
1. Brass-finished aluminum Oxford side table with marble top , CB2, $349.
2. Powder-coated steel Peggy side table, EQ3, $79.
3. Powder-coated steel Gladom side table in light yellow, IKEA, $29.
4. Brushed brass burnished side table with antiqued mirror top, Art Shoppe, $499.
5. Ash Cavour side table with melamine-finished MDF top, Structube, $99.
6. Lacquered steel stay side table in Stone Grey, Urban Mode, $363.
7. GlucksteinHome polished stainless steel Clare side table with glass top, Hudson’s Bay, $849.
8. Powder-coated aluminum Nero side table with marble top in Grey, Crate and Barrel, $449.