Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Christine Hanlon
Nest maker, know thyself. Here’s how one designer used self-reflection and simplicity to do up her Toronto Victorian.
“There are thousands of inspiring ideas out there,” says designer Melanie Hay, referring to the wellspring of online home decor images, blogs and shops. “You can literally research for months. But in the end, the best design is born of self-discovery. The more you understand who you are and how you live, the better the odds that the rooms you create will be rooms that you love.”
Melanie should know. When she and her husband, Andrew, an entrepreneur, purchased a tall, narrow Victorian in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood about four years ago, they were two people without a plan – but with about 3,000 square feet of empty space. Needless to say, to a designer like Melanie, this blank canvas meant instant inspiration overload. “My mind was swimming with decorating schemes,” she recalls. “Deep down, though, I knew Andrew and I are nesters, and when we walked in the door, we would want to come home to a space that echoes our life stories.” This is where her approach to decorating the house started.
But it was not as easy as it sounds. “From the beginning, I had to acknowledge that Andrew and I don’t share the same taste,” she says. Melanie loves white; Andrew prefers dark wood. Something had to give. The house already had the towering black doors and high-gloss black banister they both liked, so the couple let these details inspire the look. “Plus, we already owned a black and white rug, a round table with a dark top and a black leather Eames chair, so why not use them?” adds Melanie. Red- and peach-painted walls were redone in shades of light and shadow. Such was the start of what is now the home’s signature black and white colour scheme.
And a little self-reflection went a long way when it came to deciding what to hang on the walls. “Although we appreciate fine art, personal mementoes that connect us to our families matter more,” says Melanie. This realization became the inspiration for the dining room gallery wall. Gathering a few favourite prints, posters and paintings, the designer created a dynamic visual mash-up. The result is a sophisticated yet personal design element. One added bonus? It was totally budget-friendly. “I paired gold-framed heirloom pieces with newer prints in inexpensive white frames to unite the random collection,” explains Melanie. And since not many are forever pieces, she adds or subtracts on a whim. “There are a lot of nail holes in that wall!” she says with a laugh.
In many ways, this ever-evolving approach is a reflection of Melanie’s creativity. “Unlike the homes I design for clients, which are done in one sweep, my house changes constantly. I’ve become incredibly good at moving furniture, which must drive Andrew crazy. This house will never be truly finished,” she says. “And if it ever is, I’ll probably just start over!”
Homeowner and designer Melanie Hay paired her husband’s steel-topped dining table with chairs she bought on Craigslist. “I’ve reupholstered the seats two times already,” she says. Right now, they bear a sophisticated charcoal linen that accentuates the dark walls and striped rug.
“It’s been a bedside table, an end table and a catch- all,” says Melanie of the bar cart she purchased years ago. “Finally, it’s a bar!” The cart is low, however, and the home’s ceilings are very high. To draw the eye upward, she added a painting and a wall-mounted metal stag bust above it.
Melanie scoured big-box stores for large-scale artwork to act as stand-ins for the forever pieces that will eventually accent her living room. That way, she doesn’t have to live with blank walls while she searches for the perfect investments.
The house was built in the early 1900s, but its contemporary fireplace mantel and furnishings achieve an eclectic mix that feels right at home in the space. “If you can’t afford to do a house all at once,” advises Melanie, “then do one room at a time. That way you can afford to invest in key pieces.”
“Decorating one room completely and then carrying that look to the next allows you to really establish a cohesive aesthetic throughout the house,” says Melanie, who started with the living room and finished with the master bedroom, which echoes the rest of the home’s light-meets-dark and modern-meets-traditional themes.
We've got the scoop on what's popular in bathroom designs for 2017.
When it comes to resale value, kitchens and bathrooms typically give homeowners the greatest return on their investment, which makes them the optimal rooms to update and renovate. As we head into a new year, we asked designers what some of the hottest trends in bathroom design are for 2017. Looks like this is the year to get creative with those bathroom tiles! Check out what seven designers had to say.
Photography: Donna Griffith
1 "Accent walls have been around for a while but traditional accents walls have been achieved with paint or wallpaper. In 2017, we'll see mosaic glass tiled accent walls. From over-sized florals, confetti bursts and subtle damask prints, the small squares of the mosaic glass tile offer a cool pixelated look, tipping its hat to today's digital world. Whether behind a free-standing tub, shower or bathroom floor, the mosaic tile accent wall can add a whimsical wow factor into any bathroom." - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Stacey Brandford & Donna Griffith
2 "Since bathroom are typically one of the smaller rooms of the house, they are the perfect place to create interest on the floor by splurging on mosaic tiles. Create a border in the room with a larger format of the mosaic inlay. You won’t want to cover these beautiful tiles with an area rug, so consider heated floors." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
3 "A streamlined, contemporary bathroom with wall-mounted toilet and a ledge to house bathroom essentials or display artwork is on top of my dream bathroom list. If you are going to install a wall-mounted toilet, you will need to build out the wall to facilitate the flushing mechanism. So why not make it a design statement and practical feature? Best of all, a tailored, refined bathroom is always in style and will definitely bring in top dollar at resell." - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
Photography: Angus Fergusson
4 "Graphic floors continue to be a strong trend in 2017. Printed encaustic tiles in beautiful graphic patterns will continue to prevail, but I am also loving patterns created with solid coloured tiles laid in interesting patterns. For example, three colours of the same hexagonal tile laid in a random pattern, or in a pattern that gives the floor the look of an ombré gradient, can create beautiful impact in bathrooms large or small." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
5 "Bold geometric and mosaic tiles in the bathroom have been popular in recent years but a shift to simple and creative tile patterns will gain traction in 2017. While a classic white ceramic tile will never go out of style, it feels fresh when laid in a herringbone pattern instead of traditional subway running bond. Or create chic appeal with solid square tiles in a trio of colours laid out in a trendy yet timeless buffalo check pattern." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
Photography: Phil Crozier
6 "All white bathrooms will continue to be popular as they are timeless and tend to evoke a spa feel that people crave in a bathroom. Introducing lighter wood tones befitting of Scandinavian spaces will continue to be on trend and warm up an all-white space. Mixing metals will gain popularity as homeowners realize they can mix a chrome faucet with a gold or brass mirror and wall sconces to great effect. Busy patterned floor tile will lose its appeal as consumers realize that they will tire of them and they will date very quickly." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
7 "Move over subway tile and make room for shapes and geometrics. Whether the shape or pattern is part of the tile or simply created by installing in a geometric pattern, we’re seeing diamonds, hexagons, fish scale, chevron, herringbone, ovals, penny rounds and more. Regardless of the tile, basic white, bold colour or natural stone, creating pattern through shape is sure to elevate your bathroom in a classic, yet current way." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.
A glam bachelorette pad with a beach-inspired design
A 500-square-foot condo in the city is transformed into a stylish, tropical oasis.
Growing up, decorator and stylist Laura Collins would often rearrange the furniture in younger sister Jennifer’s bedroom. “My room was always a mess,” says Jennifer. “Almost weekly, Laura would come in, switch the furniture around, organize and make it look pretty again.” So when it came time to furnish her first bachelorette pad in Toronto, Jennifer didn’t hesitate to ask for help from her big sis, who started with a mood board that evoked a sun-drenched Florida beach house. It was a style Jennifer sought not only because it reminds her of frequent family vacations down south, but also because she admires her sister’s beachy-glam Toronto townhouse (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue), which boasts a similar eclectic coastal aesthetic.
Immediately, Laura identified aqua, brass and flamingo pink as key colours for the 500-square-foot space’s fresh, fun look. “My sister is my favourite client ever,” says Laura. “She trusts me – she knows this is my area of expertise.” Indeed, Jennifer purchased almost everything on the mood board within a week of moving in.
Though the space is small, Laura picked out standard furniture instead of condo-sized options. “Larger pieces make it feel more grand and livable,” she says. But of all the furniture in the space, the brass bar cart, set in front of the balcony doors and decorated with tropical details, is Jennifer’s favourite. “It reminds me of being somewhere hot,” she says. “I wake up, sit on the comfy sofa with my cup of coffee and see the sun shining in. It makes me feel like I’m in a beach house. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
Brass, aqua, turquoise, a hint of kelly green and a spattering of flamingo pink against the neutral white backdrop lend a refined vintage tropical vibe to the main living area of homeowner Jennifer Collins’s Toronto condo.
Framed prints of exotic beaches, a robin’s egg blue task lamp and a carefully edited selection of tropical-feel objets add freshness to the desk.
The kitchen is compact but features all the essentials, including a microwave tucked under the counter, a slender fridge and a peninsula offering enough seating to eliminate the need for a formal dining area.
A vintage brass tray topped with pink tumblers in the kitchen links to the brass bar cart with flamingo-themed items in the living area on the opposite side of the space.
Decorator Laura Collins (right) sits with her sister under a vintage Turner flamingo print.
1 Calypso tray, Rosanna, $32. 2 Amir toss cushion cover in Azure, Tonic Living, $45. 3 Industrial task lamp in White, West Elm, $119. 4 Kivik loveseat with Dansbo fabric in White, IKEA, $529. 5 Lucette bar cart in Gold, Pier 1 Imports, $430.
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.