Take a tour of this classic yet modern holiday home. Image by: Janis Nicolay
This B.C. home welcomes the festive season with glitzy gestures, natural accents and a perfectly pared-down palette that feels as fresh as a winter snowfall.
Sure, you can make like Will Ferrell in the comedy film Elf and deploy enough doodads to turn your home into a believable Santa’s workshop. Or you can do the opposite and take a restrained approach to Christmas, just like designer Stephanie Giesbrecht does. “I personally like it when holiday decorations go with your home,” says Stephanie, who runs Stephanie Jean Design in Langley, B.C., and insists seasonal styling “should flow with everyday living.”
That’s certainly the case in Danielle Hardy’s home. Even the gingerbread house, where there’s nary a flashy gumdrop in sight, and the glistening plate of glazed sour cream donuts match the monochromatic decor. The 3,000-square-foot Surrey, B.C., abode Danielle shares with her husband, Paul, and their kids, Mattias, 9, Maxim, 7, and Isla, 3, is a stunningly muted yet spirited space year-round.
No strangers to the decor world themselves (the couple owns and operates the online decal shop UrbanWalls), Danielle and Paul knew exactly which style they were looking for when they moved into the house two years ago, and they enlisted Stephanie to execute it. “We love Stephanie’s aesthetic,” says Danielle. “That light Scandinavian look is so easy to live with.”
The decade-old house boasted a nice open-concept layout but desperately needed a cosmetic overhaul. So Stephanie revived the dated brown walls and cherrywood-stained kitchen cabinetry with paint – soothing white for the walls and a splash of light grey for the cabinets – and amplified the luxe look with a hexagonal marble backsplash, white quartz countertops, gleaming hardware and brass light fixtures.
She also revamped the living room, customizing the unfinished fireplace with a shelving unit to stash bits and bobs and keep things clutter-free. The result is a house composed of chic, kick-up-your-feet rooms in white with small doses of grey, glammy gold and, that grounding staple, black. “The look is classic yet modern, but not trendy,” says Stephanie. “So the Hardys won’t tire of it.”
“Danielle and I didn’t want the tree to look too pristine and perfectly thought out,” says designer Stephanie Giesbrecht, who happily confesses that she’s not an over-decorator. Mini lights and larger frosted vintage-style globe bulbs add layers, interest and sparkle. Wreath by Floralista Flower studio.
Presents? you shouldn’t have! These gifts look almost too pretty to open. a sprig of pine adorning one package reinforces the home’s natural scheme. “Colourful wrapping would have felt out of place in this setting,” says homeowner Danielle Hardy.
This delightful kitchen is the family’s favourite hangout. Can you blame them? The wooden table is warm and welcoming (a slick white version would have made the room feel too cold). A door to the right leads to the pantry and is covered with a chalkboard decal for family reminders and holiday greetings.
Danielle and her three-year-old daughter, Isla, enjoy a sweet moment on the feather-filled sofa, which is extra deep for max coziness. “It’s upholstered in outdoor-friendly fabric so it’s easy to clean, which is great for a young family,” says Danielle.
Tangerines in a flower-shaped bowl deliver a small dose of colour that doesn’t overwhelm.
An array of irresistible sweets displayed on milk glass cake stands and white dishware matches the house’s monochromic motif.
Danielle is drawn to gift wrap with minimal modern prints because it speaks to her background in graphic design.
Mattias (left) and maxim play a round of Jenga, a game that the whole family, young and old, can enjoy!
Sometimes the nicest countertop displays are the simplest. here, treats set on staggered cake stands offer edible eye candy next to a tray of refreshments.
Isla’s white play kitchen is as chic as her parents’ (even without the quartz countertops and marble-tiled backsplash). the removable noel decal can be switched out when the season is over. The wee charlie Brown-esque tree is adorned with whimsical ornaments that represent the treats that a little girl’s daydreams are made of: donuts, ice cream and cake.
The niche above the living room’s fireplace mantel serves as a spot for leaning lighthearted artwork, which shows off Stephanie’s relaxed design approach.
With a palette that recalls marshmallows, meringue and pristine snowy fields, this interior is the ideal backdrop for Stephanie’s holiday decor style. “We didn’t want it to look stereotypical, so we banished the bright reds,” says Danielle, who loved Stephanie’s original design so much she hired her for the seasonal decorating.
Stephanie layered in earthy seasonal elements with subtle festive spirit. Rather than weighing down the Christmas tree with a glut of ornaments, for instance, she employed two styles of string lights (one bearing big bulbs and the other bearing small ones) for spare but brightly lit branches that quietly dazzle. Elsewhere, snippets of nature – like the grand garland draped over a mantel – look like they’ve been foraged from the forest. Danielle is thrilled with the subtle seasonal makeover, which serves as proof that over-the-top Christmas decor (à la Buddy the elf) doesn’t define holiday style, and that opting for a pared-back approach certainly doesn’t make you a grinch.
Stephanie Giesbrecht's Serene Christmas must-haves
1 Natural greenery I love using wreaths, garlands and vases of greenery like cedar and eucalyptus throughout the home. They look great and offer amazing scents.
2 Lots of Candles Whether lined up along your dining and coffee tables, placed in lanterns by the fireplace or even tucked into small votives beside the kitchen sink, candles always add a welcoming cozy glow.
3 Ample ribbon Stock up on a variety of ribbons to finish gifts, embellish wreaths, tie onto garlands and incorporate into your Christmas tree decor.
4 White lights Whether used on the interior or exterior, white lights are my favourite. I especially love all the classic vintage-looking bulbs available.
5 Exterior planters Carry your Christmas decor outside by filling empty urns with pine and cedar boughs.
6 Glass cloches Highlight a special ornament or even a sweet gingerbread house by placing it in a bell jar.
7 Planted paperwhites I love fresh flowers, and having a bowl of potted paperwhites is an inexpensive way to keep live blooms around throughout the season.
8 Pretty platters Have trays on hand so you’re ready to entertain at a moment’s notice.
(Photo by: Joe Kim | Recipe & Food Styling: Tanya Eng)
End your Sunday nights with a classic Canadian treat — maple butter tart pie.
Try your hand at this divine recipe, which takes the nationally revered butter tart and makes it even better by turning it into a whole decadent pie, subtly flavoured with our next favourite thing, maple syrup. What does that mean for your final course of the day? As large a portion as you desire and more of that sugary, buttery filling in every single bite. Oh, Canada!
1 In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and lard, and pulse to a fine crumble.
2 Add the egg and water. Process the mixture to a loose, crumbly meal.
3 Work the pastry into a 1"-thick round disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into a ¼"-thick and 12"-round disc.
4 Roll the pastry around a rolling pin.
5 Unroll over a 9-½" springform pan.
6 Work the pastry into the edges of the pan, forming a loose, wavy crust. Chill for 10 minutes.
7 To blind bake the pastry shell, line the pastry with parchment paper and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 350ºF; remove the parchment paper and pie weights.
8 To make the filling, whisk together the maple syrup, sugar, melted butter, eggs and vinegar in a bowl.
9 Pour the mixture into the baked shell and place the pie on a baking sheet.
10 Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour on the centre rack of the oven. The pie is done when the top is golden brown but the centre is still wobbly. Let cool before serving.
Serves 8 to 10.
(This recipe was originally featured in our October 2014 issue.)
Use fresh peaches for this delicious dessert recipe.
Our delicious crumbly topped buckle comes with a hit of sour cream for a dessert that’s peach perfect!
Fuzzy peaches are ripe for the pickin’ right now, so make the most of their juicy sweetness by baking a moist and tender coffee cake.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
2 With the mixer still running, add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the sour cream and almond extract.
3 Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4 Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
5 Butter and flour a 9" round deep-dish pie pan.
6 Pour half of the batter evenly into the pie pan and layer 2 cups of the peach slices overtop.
7 Repeat with the remaining batter and peach slices.
8 To make the streusel topping, in a small bowl, work together the butter and the flour with your fingers until a coarse meal forms. Stir in the almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the peach slices.
9 Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the buckle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream on the side.
Serves: 8 to 10
Image by: Donna Griffith | Styling: Christine Hanlon
Hushed tones and plenty of natural light make for a dreamy retreat
When these newlyweds ditched their condo for a house — as so many do — they set their sights upon Toronto’s leafy Summerhill neighbourhood , which they admired for its older homes. The couple found a 2,290-square-foot four-bedroom semi built in the 1930s that fit the bill in terms of age and locale, but it hadn’t been touched since the ’80s.
“It was so dark,” says one of the homeowners, referring to the interior, which was coated in dowdy browns and suffering from tiny rooms and windows, as well as a gloomy kitchen partitioned from the rest of the house. “We needed more light and a large kitchen for my husband, who loves to cook,” she says. Simply put, the house was hardly what you’d call a love nest. So the homeowners enlisted Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent to give their starter house a style transfusion.
“We wanted to create a classically inspired backdrop with clean-lined furnishings and art,” says Amy. The homeowners didn’t want to go too stark or too stuffy, so they settled on a transitional look with bold lashes of black and modern furnishings boasting traditional details. And, of course, they addressed the cramped spaces and lack of light.
To that end, the designers reworked the layout, removing the powder room, relocating the kitchen and expanding the windows at the front and back of the house. “We opened everything up so the light emanating from the new windows and existing skylight would stretch further,” says Ryan.
As for the finer details, near-black accents add striking drama against the palette of soothing greys, blues, browns and whites. “The colours in this home are very subtle, tone-on-tone and easy to live with,” says Amy. “We wanted the house to make an impact as a whole – not for any particular wall or accent to stand out above the rest.”
Whether the homeowners are upstairs lounging in the relaxed media room or downstairs sipping tea in the more formal living area, there is indeed a clear sense of cohesion, which is a hallmark of this home — and what makes it a far cry from its gloomy beginnings.
A dynamic explosion of hexagonal and subway tiles gives the third-floor bathroom edge. The contrasting grout as well as the blackened metal fittings, chair rail and sconces look sharp against the white backdrop.
Watery blues and greys lend a serene painterly feel to the tranquil second-floor family room.
The long and linear print of birch trees (with hand-applied copper leaf) echoes the shape of the low-slung sofa, which is clean-lined to suit the quiet space.
“I loved being able to customize the house to our needs,” says one of the homeowners. “My husband really loves the new kitchen.”