Image: Angus Fergusson
A Toronto designer saves a lot of money and time when creating an elegant yet approachable living room for her young family.
They say time is money, and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg was keen to conserve both when she endeavoured to beautify her living room. The busy mom of three and her husband, Don Saynor, had recently renovated the main floor of their 2,000-square-foot Toronto home, netting the room a crisp envelope of fresh white walls, black-framed windows and wide-plank hardwood floors. The decor, however, left much to be desired. “We had our dog crate in there and our TV on this little side table,” says Stacy. “The room had a sad university student vibe.”
The space needed a decorative growth spurt, so Stacy began by splurging on a designer drapery fabric that echoed the monochromatic-plus-yellow palette of the adjacent kitchen (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue). To further elevate the room, she sourced a high-end grasscloth wallpaper and accented the fireplace wall with it. “Once you have a couple of investment pieces, you can play with lower-cost elements,” says the designer, who applied the principle here: While some of the furnishings – including the velvet swivel chair and statuesque side table – are affordable new purchases, others, such as the celestial-patterned bench and glam gold coffee table, are actually inexpensive second-hand items Stacy had updated. And the chic William Birch-style sofa? It’s an existing piece the designer updated by replacing the back cushions with some throw pillows. Budget-friendly artwork and other accessories, ranging from high to low, finish the room.
Sporting a chic California-cool look, the resulting space seems like a tall order, but it only took a couple of weeks to pull together – proof that style need not suffer if you’re strapped for time and cash.
In a low-budget few-week makeover, homeowner and designer Stacy Begg gave her living room a California-cool look. Against a neutral backdrop, elements like floral drapery, a gold-painted bamboo coffee table and a funky celestial-inspired bench offer a sunny, relaxed vibe.
The chic bar cart was an on-sale buy and the landscape photograph above an existing piece.
Custom drapery made from vibrant designer fabric enlivens the room.
Stacy opted for a floral drapery fabric in white, black and yellow that echoes the palette of her adjacent kitchen. “That was my jumping-off point,” she says. “I really love the yellow.” Other elements like the grasscloth wallpaper, berber-style rug and hits of brass add texture and warmth. The graphic black and white print provides contrast, and the faux encaustic hearth tiles evoke the popular Tuscan trend.
The original fireplace, which juts out past the chimney breast on either side, precluded custom built-in storage. “It was for the best,” says Stacy, who opted to hang floating shelves instead. “They were a fraction of the cost and went up in no time!” Accessorized with pieces from the designer’s stash of styling gear, the substitutes look no worse than the built-ins would have.
The fireplace, which got a crisp drywall job during a recent reno, needed some character, stat. Stacy highlighted it by covering the surrounding wall with a rich taupe sisal grasscloth – a project she and a friend completed in less than a day.
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.
Celeb home tour: Jensen Ackles's Malibu home
Inside Supernatural TV star Jensen Ackles' prestigious single-family Malibu home.
This might just be one of Malibu’s most wanted listings. Situated in a gated property on a one-acre site, is television actor Jensen Ackles and wife Danneel’s 5,940-square-feet home in Point Dume. The single-family house, which was remodeled by the couple this year, features a gourmet kitchen designed with custom cabinetry, hand painted tiles and Calcatta marble. To top it off, the family home includes a pool, spa, outdoor kitchen/BBQ, guest suite above the garage, and rights to the Riviera Beach.
An ocean view from the balcony, attached multi-purpose room, separate walk-in closets and a large master bath, are just some of the perks of the grand master suite. The listed price for this impressive real estate is $6.995 million. Check out the listing here.
- 5 bedrooms
- 6 bathrooms
- An entertainer's dream backyard
- 3 grassy yard areas
- Guest home suite
- Grand living room
- Gourmet kitchen
- Outdoor kitchen
Surrounded by luscious trees, pillars and a stone stairway, the outdoor hall to this Malibu home creates a grand welcome into the home.
The couple's idea of a contemporary classic style, starts from the foyer and flows through the entire home.
The living room is lined with large windows, allowing natural light to come through. A design scheme of light colours and textures were added to further brighten up the room.
From the bold colour palette to rich fabrics, this home has plenty of 2014 design trends.
The family-friendly living room has built-in shelves around the fireplace, making for a great focal point.
A view from the traditional and contemporary-styled living room into the kitchen. The room is designed with open seating and patterened rugs for a cozy feel.
The counter-height table set makes for additional seating in this open-concept kitchen.
With custom kitchen cabinetry, hand painted tiles, marble countertops, and walnut plank flooring, the couple has pulled out all stops for their gourmet kitchen.
This master suite, with a peaked ceiling and exposed beam, definitely gives a luxurious feel with a view to the ocean, balcony and an attached spare room.
A custom designed master bathroom is a serene retreat thanks to a neutral colour palette, extended vanity and oversized walk-in shower.
The couple installed a sleek white freestanding tub, giving the bathroom a more modern look, unique from the rest of the house.
Along with a pool and greenery as far as the eye can see, the house has rights to access Riviera 3 Beach.
Placing the outdoor kitchen and bar-height table in the corner, creates more room for guests and entertaining.
Adding to this massive backyard design, are three grassy areas and an option for a tennis court.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.