A kitchen with subtle contrasts and country character.
Designer Ali Budd gives a Toronto couple the best of both worlds: a family- (and dog-) friendly home that boasts modern sensibility as well as country flair.
When the couple enlisted Ali Budd, the designer asked Michele to provide photos of what she loved and didn’t like. A binder full of clippings verified that Michele prefers clean lines and all things cottage. “The challenge was giving them something that feels fresh and contemporary and appropriate for the city but at the same time has that cottagey country vibe,” says Ali.
An addition on the back of the house allowed homeowners Michele Foster and Aaron Harlang to expand the small kitchen, which now features an eat-in area with a child-friendly faux-leather-upholstered banquette. To enhance the room’s visual flow, the table was made from the same quartz as the countertops. The lantern-style pendant light complements the kitchen’s modern-country aesthetic. “To me, a lantern is quintessentially country, but this one is done in a more contemporary style,” says designer Ali Budd.
Painting the island pale grey gives the all-white kitchen a distinctive touch. The black metal pendant lights and farmhouse-style stools lend contrast and country character.
The inset marble mosaic backsplash tiles surrounded by decorative tile trim create a pretty focal point above the range in the kitchen. “I used the same marble as the subway tiles so it wouldn’t look too busy,” says Ali. Glass-fronted doors add airiness and break up the expanse of white cabinetry.
Opening up the main floor was the first step in creating an airy, functional space for the young family. And an 800-square-foot three-storey addition provided ample room to expand the small, outdated kitchen. “I would periodically use our oven for storage before,” says Michele. “We also had a little table that only sat two people.” Now the kitchen boasts a large eat-in area defined by a built-in banquette, which seats about five people and offers plenty of drawer space.
The kitchen’s eat-in area was the perfect spot to subtly inject a bit of red. “Michele wanted to add it somewhere but was afraid of committing to it,” says Ali. “So I thought that was a great place to put in a little pop because it’s not front and centre.”
Durable indoor-outdoor striped fabric covering the family room’s armchairs adds a bit of whimsy and fun. The custom-made barnboard coffee table is both rustic and polished.
That same rustic-meets-clean-lined aesthetic is carried throughout the main floor. In the dining room, a polished live-edge black walnut dining table is paired with classic linen-upholstered chairs. The family room is designed for lounging, with a sleek sectional and barnboard coffee table. All textiles, including the striped armchair fabric, pass the pug-hair test. “I tested about 20 fabric samples on one of my own pugs to see which showed the least amount of hair,” says Ali.
A bench and rug define the entryway, which is open to the rest of the main floor. Wainscotting along the staircase adds architectural character. “Michele wanted it somewhere, and because there’s not a lot of wall space on the main level, we installed it up the stairs,” says Ali.
How to: Hang wallpaper
Expert advice for hanging wallpaper with ease.
Wallpaper can make a huge impact on a space. The seemingly endless array of patterns and textures mean giving a room a facelift can be as simple as choosing the perfect wallpaper to complement it. The hard part for most people is when the time comes to hang that wallpaper. Despite the task seeming daunting, one with the potential for DIY disaster, the process isn’t as complicated as it may look. In fact, hanging wallpaper in any room is simple if you know the right steps.
Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball, shares her expertise on hanging wallpaper the right way.
First things first. Some prep work is needed if you want to ensure wallpaper goes on smooth and straight. “Before papering, ensure all surfaces are sound, clean and dry,” Charlotte says. She advises removing any traces of dirt, old wallpaper or flaking paint. If there any cracks, holes and open joints, you’ll need to fill those in with an appropriate filler.
Once the walls are clean, it’s time to tackle any bigger issues such as unsound paint surfaces, which Charlotte notes should be sealed with an appropriate primer. She adds that gloss painted surfaces should be sanded and damp walls should be treated. Any absorbent surfaces such as new plaster need to be sized with wallpaper paste or a suitable sizing solution and allowed to dry for a minimum of one hour.
Charlotte also recommends that walls be horizontally cross lined with a good quality, medium to heavyweight lining paper (1200 - 1400 grade) and allowed to dry for a minimum of 12 hours before you apply the wallpaper. Lining paper can make wallpaper removal easier when the time comes.
If the wallpaper you’re using isn’t pre-pasted or self-adhesive, you’re going to need to use wallpaper paste. Charlotte recommends using wallpaper paste that is suitable for hanging a paper of more than 140gsm weight so you can be sure it will hold properly. She also suggests finding a paste that has a pH of 7 to 12 since acidic pastes can damage the wallpaper. Other factors to consider when choosing a wallpaper paste include the type of wallpaper (fabric, textured, etc.) and the type of wall surface. If you’re unsure, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of paper you’ve chosen.
Once you’re ready to apply the wallpaper paste, start by applying a generous, even coat of paste over the paper, which Charlotte says you’ll want to do from the centre outwards. Make sure the edges are well pasted but be careful not to let any paste come into contact with the pattern side of the paper.
Before you can hang your paper you’ll need to “book” the wallpaper, which involves folding the paper onto itself, paste side in and allowing it to rest for 10 minutes (timing could be more or less depending on the paste you’re using), until it’s pliable enough to work with. Just be careful not to leave it for too long; if the paper becomes too wet it will shrink back as it dries.
Paper hanging and stretching
Now it’s time to hang the paper. Check the pattern repeat before cutting paper lengths according to the height of your wall and allowing 2-3 inches at the top and bottom for trimming. If you’re hanging the paper vertically, use a plumb line for the first length to ensure the paper will be completely straight. Once you begin, aim to have paper edges butt up to subsequent lengths of paper, but avoid overlapping the edges. As you hang your paper, trapped air bubbles are a common problem that can occur so Charlotte recommends using a good quality paper hanging brush to smooth the paper out evenly over the surface, working from the center to the edges, which will expel any trapped air bubbles.
It’s also important not to stretch the paper because it will shrink back when it’s dry, which can exaggerate the seams. Overstretching can happen when your paste is too watery or when too little paste is used. If you’re dealing with papers that have a traditional matte finish, Charlotte says it’s especially important that any excess paste be completely removed before it dries because paste left on this type of paper can show up as shiny patches later. And finally, she says, “For best results we recommend that any central heating is turned off overnight to allow the paper to dry naturally.”
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.Credits: Ashley Capp
A resourceful designer with a knack for all things DIY creates a cozy and contemporary space for her family of four.
For the design inclined, recognizing beautiful pieces is easy enough, but the real decorating challenge comes from knowing how to fit all the elements together in a harmonious way. Designer Sarah Walker has this down to a science. Last year, the reno expert transformed her Oakville, Ont., home’s uninspiring family room into a sophisticated space boasting symmetry and style. “I wanted a modern yet classic room that balances the masculine and feminine qualities of our family,” she says, referring to her husband, Graham, and two boys (Noah, 13, and Tate, 2). Having already installed the hardwood flooring and built-in wall unit with her husband five years prior, Sarah’s next order of business was the furniture layout. “I always pictured this space having a pair of sofas facing each other,” says the designer. “I love the conversational quality the set-up brings to a room.”
So she traded in her existing brown sectional for two handsome black velvet sofas and added a geometric-print rug to further delineate the sitting area. This design choice drew her toward a timeless marble herringbone tile treatment for the fireplace, which echoes the graphic quality of the rug but on a smaller scale (with budget top of mind, Sarah and Graham even installed the tile themselves). Other subtle additions to the fireplace like the contrasting white mantel and the curved screen enhance the unit’s bold and beautiful aesthetic. Next up was deciding what to make of an empty alcove set in the wall opposite the fireplace. In an act of creative daring, the deft DIYer transformed the space into a stylish office nook. Sarah began by making an elegant-meets-edgy pin board out of embossed reptile-patterned velvet fabric and then punctuated the look with antiqued brass nails before adding a floating desk and shelf. “The pin board blends in well with the room’s ikat wallpaper but still makes a visual statement that anchors the work area,” she says. After mastering the layout, the designer reinforced the room’s romantic and rustic feel with tasteful details like luxurious sheepskin pieces and natural wooden elements, ensuring each family member feels equally at home. “We spend just as much time here as we did before,” says Sarah, “but now we enjoy it 10 times as much.” That’s all the evidence we need that this master curator has done it again.
Since this family of four has a penchant for the outdoors, the designer incorporated nature-inspired finds, such as the large print depicting a foggy forest hanging above the fireplace. “The image reminds me of being in the woods and escaping the everyday,” says Sarah. She had the piece stretched onto canvas and then resined to deliver more of an ethereal effect.
Sarah and her husband upgraded their fireplace with a striking custom herringbone tile treatment.
The custom white oak coffee table lends an organic vibe to the family room and calls attention to the tall stack of logs tucked into the wall unit. “With a wood-burning fireplace, you want the logs to be close by so you’re not dragging bark everywhere,” says designer and homeowner Sarah Walker. “The display also has visual impact and adds warmth.”
For Sarah, a beautifully styled bookshelf relies on meaning just as much as placement and scale. “It’s important to tell your story through your space,” she says, referring to objects she added that were collected over time, from a sea urchin found in a quirky San Francisco shop to a sepia sketch purchased on the streets of Paris during her first trip there with her husband.
Playing with contrasting shapes, Sarah created a chic coffee table vignette using curved accents, including a vintage silver tray and a faceted black vase, to temper the sharp edges of the surface. “Bringing in round, soft elements is really important when you’re working with a room that has a lot of hard geometry,” says the designer.
Fashioning an inspiring and orderly work area came easily to Sarah thanks in part to location. “When a communal workspace is integrated into a kitchen, it winds up becoming a clutter collector,” she says. “But in the family room, it’s a bit more removed from that initial drop of mail and keys.”
Stylish sun-filled family room.
A time-worn Toronto house is transformed into a lively family home with a welcoming design.
"We moved so we could have a pool,” says homeowner and decorator Jenifer Glover of J.G. Interiors. It was 2008, and she and her husband, Norm Brownstein, were keen to create a fun backyard oasis in the city for their four children: Gabriele, 15, Jackson, 13, Hayden, 10, and Maya, 7.
So when a house with pool potential in a prime Toronto neighbourhood came up for sale, they took the plunge, even though it was far from perfect. “We loved the location and the lot, which had space for a pool, but we didn’t love the house,” says Jenifer. “It was a rundown 1930s build with faux Tudor features. Our plan was to freshen up the rooms with paint to tide us over until the eventual tear-down and rebuild.”
Jenifer relaxes on a black leather bench in the family room.
Jennifer's family room before the elegant home renovation.
The design of the sun-filled family room had a surprising jumping-off point: the television. “With the TV in place on a custom cabinet, I designed the shelves above it and repeated them and the cabinet on the other side of the fireplace,” says Jenifer. “This symmetry allowed me to fill the opposite space with artwork that balances out the television.”
Lively patterned toss cushions dress up the family room’s classic linen sofa.
This vignette design in the family room is testament to homeowner Jenifer Glover’s personalized approach to decorating: “These are things I’ve picked up over time because I love them.”
Crafted from the same walnut as the kitchen island, the family room’s custom wood cabinets and shelves are both stylish and practical. “The wood ties these rooms together while really warming up the space,” says Jenifer.
The kitchen before its complete restaurant-inspired renovation.
Wooden accents and sophisticated accessories infuse the new-build kitchen with old-world charm. The gold-framed mirrors reflect one of Jennifer’s favourite inspirations: restaurant design. “I love sitting in restaurants that have mirrors angled downward – the light and the images that bounce back are wonderful.” Secondhand bentwood stools and an elaborate chandelier from France have a rich vintage feel that tempers the room’s white surfaces. The steel window frames and mullions were painted black to mimic the industrial appearance of the French doors.
A rustic-look dining table in the kitchen's eat-in area holds up to a house full of kids because, according to Jenifer, “It only gets better with age.” The space features framed artwork created by the couple’s children. “It’s elements like kids’ art that turn a house into a home,” she says.
Anything but oppressive, a dramatic black painted ceiling glams up the formal dining room. “It feels like the night sky,” says Jenifer. With leather and chrome dining chairs, a vintage-look brass pendant light and a traditional rug, the room has an edgy eclectic vibe.