A layered neutral living room
Follow designer Kelley McNamara's tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer Kelley McNamara turns a 3,000-square-foot Dutch Colonial home in Fort Langley, B.C., into a calming abode for her busy family.
Designer Kelley McNamara shares 10 tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer and homeowner Kelley McNamara fills vintage milk glass vases, ceramic jugs and glass jars with blooms to capture the country charm of her rural surroundings. “I always try to have fresh flowers in the house,” says Kelley. “They add an element of organic texture and colour.”
A French metal chandelier brings patina and visual interest to the dining room. “I want the house to look like it’s been here a long time,” says Kelley. The fixture ties in beautifully with the sun-bleached oak table, mix-and-match seating, white oak plank floors and salvaged antique barn door.
An aged-looking support beam gives this pristine space character – and it’s a clever trick. “I wanted salvaged timber, but it was too expensive,” says Kelley. Instead, she painted a new fir beam with a few coats of sun-bleached oak wood stain. A trio of wicker stools, brass-finished hardware and a vintage-style pendant light also lend the kitchen a well-lived-in vibe.
The mud room’s industrial sink makes it easy to bathe the family’s two dogs, Duke and Finnegan, before they track dirt into the house, while the slate floor is easy to clean. A Dutch door injects country charm.
Kelley panelled the range hood over the six-burner gas range to achieve a seamless look with the cabinetry. Installing the microwave in the island keeps it out of sight yet easily accessible for the children.
Kelley believes neutral rooms don’t have to be boring. She jazzed up the formal living room’s white and grey palette with linen fabrics, a wool rug and toss cushions in mohair, faux fur and hide. “The more layers, the richer the room becomes,” she says. A dark-brown-framed mirror creates a focal point over the fireplace, while brass library lights are a warm finishing touch on the built-in bookshelves.
Instead of setting this console against a wall or behind a sofa, Kelley gave it centre stage in her front foyer. To ground the vignette, she placed the console atop a rug and arranged interesting objects, such as coffee table books, geode crystals and a potted plant, on top of it. These decorative items bring the outdoors in and make the arrangement feel purposeful.
Kelley didn't overdecorate the master bath, allowing the glass shower and sculptural free-standing tub to make the statement. The accessories are quiet, except for the aged-brass-finished pendant light, which draws the eye toward the corner windows.
A dining room buffet gets new life as the master bathroom vanity. Kelley asked her carpenter to cut off the top of the buffet, and then had a plumber add a quartz countertop, undermounted sinks and wall-mounted faucets for rustic appeal.
Simple bedding, a tufted bench and elegant accessories signal that the master bedroom is a calming oasis. Soft grey is the only whisper of colour in the otherwise monochromatic room, while a few hits of brass add glamour.
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
DIY project: Paint chip wreath
A predominantly white kitchen with rustic elements.
An eclectic design sensibility tempered by an outdoorsy palette shows that, as always, Mother Nature knows best.
If every house has a story, this one features a happy ending the homeowners wrote themselves. But it wasn't without a few plot twists and turns along the way. It was 12 years ago that Laurie and Randy Phillips noticed a quaint cottage home in Delta, B.C., a beachside community near Vancouver, was for sale. "The property was two streets over from us, and we'd often walk by just to admire it," says Laurie. Within 24 hours of spotting the house for sale, they owned it. The plan? To renovate the cottage and imbue it with an eclectic look of mixed styles (from rustic farmhouse to industrial chic to Mid-Century Modern) that would honour the outdoors. And finish it all before they moved in with their son. However, when Randy, an electrician-turned-firefighter, started the demolition, the news was bad - as in, catastrophic. The cottage lacked a proper foundation, and little else could be brought up to code. Suddenly, the couple was left with no choice: They had to build a new house from the ground up. "The situation pushed us to do something we weren't ready to do," says Laurie. "But we realized we could create the kind of historic-looking home we love but couldn't afford in Vancouver."
The couple tackled the job themselves: Randy, who has experience in framing and construction, did nearly all the building himself; Laurie, who works in cosmetics and skincare and has an affinity for design, oversaw the interior. But before Laurie could get to her bulging inspiration files, the couple had to decide on the bones of the house. They settled on a blueprint for a 2,500-square-foot Craftsman-style home with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. And Laurie's vision for the exterior was unwavering - she wanted grey coloured cedar shake shingles with white trim. Her plan also included a stone patio for entertaining and a grassy area with Adirondack chairs for lounging in the backyard, since Vancouver's mild climate means the family can enjoy the outdoors for nine months of the year. Finally, it was time for Laurie to dig into the decor. Inspired by her natural surroundings and the home's exterior, Laurie carried the neutral palette throughout the entire house to create a seamless flow between the indoors and out. "I wanted a look that wouldn't date," she says.
The oval window at the front of the house was a must for Laurie because of its beachy appeal. “It’s something I associate with the ocean,” she says.
A slipcovered armchair anchors a gallery wall of black and white artwork, some by Laurie and some bought online. The monochromatic palette gives the display cohesion, while the various sizes and finishes of the framed artwork keep it from feeling too uniform.
The home office, just off the front entrance, showcases Laurie’s eclectic design sensibility. The cool Mid-century modern-style office chair she found on Craigslist looks even more sleek when paired with a weathered wooden desk.
Honed granite kitchen countertops ground the classic white shaker-style cabinetry in the kitchen. Laurie chose barely-there white linen Roman window blinds for the windows to add a cozy layer to the space without distracting from the view of the beautiful backyard. An antique wooden workbench Laurie found at auction takes centre stage as a kitchen island in the mostly white kitchen. “Because the living space is all open concept, I wanted something leggy and not bulky,” she explains. Plus, it’s a conversation piece. “Everyone talks about it when they first visit.”
In the dining room, Laurie combined iconic black bentwood dining chairs with white moulded plastic ones to achieve a classic, casual and chic mix.
The white plastic chairs in the kitchen compliment the many white and black accents in the home and add brightness to the dining table.
Black accents ground the all-white living room, adding interest and personality. “Because there’s so much white and light, I didn’t want everything to float away,” says Laurie.
Taupe velvet drapes add polish to the expansive living room windows, but they’re rarely pulled closed, allowing the sun to shine in.
Since homeowners Laurie and Randy Phillips designed and built this Craftsman-style house themselves the grey cedar shake shingles, crisp white trim and transom windows are synonymous with its look. The back door leads right into the kitchen, which is super convenient when the couple wants to barbecue meals.
Shapely outdoor lounge chairs create an inviting seating area against a cedar hedge in the backyard. “As soon as the weather gets nice, we’re out here or on the front porch,” says Laurie.
Tumbled stone pavers, which Randy installed himself, lead from the front of the house to the shingled garage in the backyard.