Friday, October 3, 2014

An International Story | Canada's Love Affair with bluebellgray

Paris truly is the city of love, so it's only apropos that Canada's love affair with bluebellgray should begin there. Arren Williams of Hudson's Bay made the home-textiles-love connection with Fiona Douglas when they met at Maison et Objet, and her vibrant and joyful collection of home textiles and furnishings has now launched here in Canada this Fall.

In a home décor category filled with endless whites and neutrals, Fiona Douglas' handpainted bluebellgray collection of home textiles fairly sings with joie de vivre. And there is a freedom to Fiona's collection that belies her story.

Coming from a family that was quite clearly either artistically or medically minded, Fi fell to the artistic side of the family tree right from the start. Inspired by children's illustrator Quentin Blake and her Mum's use of colour, flowers and beautiful books in the house, Fiona pursued her love of beauty when she enrolled in the prestigious Glasgow School of Art's fine art program.

While Fiona enjoyed the opportunity to hone and refine her skills in Glasgow, she found that the fine arts program and it's classical roots felt somehow restrictive. She was soon to discover - through the nudgings of a good friend - that the real problem was quite simply that the canvas was too small for Fiona's expansive imagination.

Fiona made the switch to textile design on the promptings of a friend in the program who saw the freedom Fi needed and encouraged her to embrace it via a slight change in medium and a broadening of her canvas and her horizons. As I'm sure you would agree, the results are truly beautiful and offer us the opportunity to dream watercolour dreams filled with vibrant colour and unrestricted imagination as we tuck ourselves into bed each night.

Image via Hudson's Bay
I confess I am already designing a heart-happy guest room in my imagination, all centred around the Glasgow Queen Headboard {pictured above} from the bluebellgray furniture collection that is exclusive to Hudson's Bay. And I'm doing so with a clean conscience. Fiona shares my passion for the process behind the product, so much so that her company is both completely carbon neutral and diligently ensuring that the craftspeople making the linens and furniture for bluebellgray are treated fairly and ethically at every step along the way.

All of the furniture pieces in the collection for Hudson's Bay are not only exclusive, but also made right here in Toronto at a small father-daughter studio. She's my kind of girl, that Fi, as she truly believes in supporting the local economy and local artisans as she shares her inspiration with the world. Integrity and human kindness really are two of the most profound forms of beauty, after all.

I hope Fiona's beautiful, handpainted bluebellgray collection has inspired you to follow your dreams, expand your canvas, and leave your own unique mark of beauty on the world. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Fi! I look forward to tea together again the next time you are this side of the pond.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014 Brian Gluckstein Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome | PART THREE

So without further ado, let me share my favourite space in the Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome. It is - in one sense - the simplest space in the house.

A desk.

Two chairs.

A tree.

That's it.

Well, unless you count the endless windows and decadent abundance of natural light. At the end of the day, that's all I really need. NATURAL LIGHT. In fact, it's my favourite Designer luxury.

Turns out, the chairs were scooped up at a thrift store and reupholstered. My kind of find!

And have I mentioned those windows?! 16 feet high and capped off with a skylight above to basically make this as outdoors as you can possibly get while still being inside the house. The third wall is mirrored so that it feels like a glass box and just reflects the light even further into the space, and the fourth wall is just open to the house. THIS is the sightline at the end of the hallway from the entrance you would use daily as a family. Can you say inspired? Talk about a welcome home for the senses.

L  O  V  E.

I don't know about you, but I think a lot of dreaming and planning and world dominating {in the most feminine, kick-ass way possible, of course} could happen in this space. Sign. Me. Up.

What do you think? What's your favourite space in this house?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2014 Brian Gluckstein Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome | PART TWO

So yesterday I shared with you some of my favourite design features from this beautiful home through the lens of my personal Dream House Wish List. I think I'm going to have to make this a regular feature as the list of dream details keeps growing, and they are far too delicious to keep to myself! For now, more design love from the 2014 Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome designed by Brian Gluckstein.


The heart of every dream home is truly the kitchen. This is where family and friends gather, where meals are prepared and shared and where some of the most meaningful conversations of the day often take place. There should be a simpatico in the kitchen - a welcoming of the ebb and flow of people who make a house a home - matched with a comfortable calm that invites creativity and connection.

I love the high gloss black lacquer on the island cabinetry, which serves as a nice punch of contrast to the clean and serene waterfall countertop made of Cambria quartz.

The satin brass cabinetry hardware is a modern twist on a classic. I also love the retro feel of the brass and frosted glass pendants over the island {below}.

The Le Cornue range and hood vent offer a dramatic focal point, adding more contrast and a touch of French decadence to this kitchen.

And the collection of toasters from the 1930's and '40's adds just the sense of quirky personality this kitchen needs!


For me, every dream house absolutely has to have a sense of whimsy. We should never take ourselves too seriously, but especially not at home. After all, how can we have a house filled with laughter if we lose our playful spirit? Laughter is a must in my world! And in this house, the whimsy and lightheartedness I look for are best seen in the art found in the children's bedrooms, all from Art Interiors. I love how the artwork plays off of the colourful bedding from the Gluckstein Home collection. Bright, cheerful colours for a bright and cheerful little life! It doesn't hurt that navy and orange happens to be one of my favourite colour combinations.

Creamsicle anyone?
The effortless drape of the bouquet of tulips over the bed creates a casual beauty that's perfect for this room!

I'm also in love with the GENIUS way that Brian concealed an awkward bulkhead in one of the bedrooms by creating this nautical-inspired built-in bunk bed {below}. Rumour has it the ladder was tucked away for safe keeping before the house was opened to guests because the adults on the team "may or may not" have been climbing up it and playing on the bunk beds themselves. That's a good sign in my book! It's all about keeping a childlike spirit alive.

How much is that doggy in the window? Love him!
Isn't the craft room adorable? That whimsical dalmatian totally sets the tone!


To juxtapose that playful whit and lightheartedness, every dream home should have at least one moment of drama. Take, for example, the the theatre room on the lower level of this house. The dark walls, masculine furnishings, gallery wall of photography and eclectic, well-traveled spirit of the styling of the accessories all tell an interesting story and set the stage for the drama and intrigue that make for a perfect movie viewing room.


One of the things I love most about being an interior designer is the opportunity to use my strategy gene to turn problems into solutions and even design features. Brian Gluckstein is the absolute master of this very brand of design magic. I love how he used his ingenuity to solve the problem of a home gym that was totally lacking in natural light. Not one to settle, Brian got creative and thought - what if one of the walls was "see through?" Literally! By encasing the wine cellar in glass instead of drywall and suspending the racking between the floor and ceiling so that it didn't require a wall to anchor it, Brian created a giant window into the home gym that welcomes in a wash of natural light to keep the fitness buffs in this household feeling fresh and inspired. Genius!

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I'll reveal my favourite space in this house and why I love it so!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 Brian Gluckstein Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome | PART ONE

I've been putting a lot of thought of late into what my Dream House Wish List looks like, assembling mental pictures and thinking through styles and historical periods for reference. There are really three architectural periods - Georgian, Regency and Art Deco - that most speak my language, and this year's Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome is a beautiful interpretation of a modern day Georgian classic.

Designed by Canadian Design Icon Brian Gluckstein, the house is awash with details and delights around every corner. I had the opportunity to chat with Brian as he graciously toured a small and privileged group of designers and design bloggers through the house before it's grand opening. I loved hearing Brian's insights into the nuances and design details of the process behind this beautiful South East Oakville home, and now I'd love to take you on a little tour as I share with you some of the details that are firmly planted on my personal Dream House Wish List.


To make a house truly engaging for the mind - and to make it feel open and embracing of the hum and buzz of daily life - a dream house should have really beautiful sight lines. What does that mean, you ask? It means that when you look down a hallway or through a room, the place at which your eye comes to rest should be interesting, ideally extending to you an invitation to come in and see what is around the next corner. For me, this includes an abundance of natural light to draw you in and open you up to the possibilities. That is what an inspiring space should do, after all, isn't it?

It was actually the view from the mudroom through to the Conservatory {see below} that first had me catch my breath a little. Yes, I just said Conservatory. Here's a sneak peek of that beautiful sight line.

Note the rhythm created by the repetition of archways, the tray ceiling details and repetition of light fixtures down the hallway. Yep, you guessed it. Dream House Wish List details.

I'm going to make you wait for more details on the Conservatory {you can just make it out at the end of the hallway}. Just a glimpse for now, but we'll come back to it, I promise.

The gracious curved staircase also offers beautiful site lines at every level of the house, and the window that extends through all three floors floods the staircase with natural light.


For me, one of the ultimate indulgences on my Dream House Wish List is simply a house that is drenched-to-the-point-of-drunken with natural light. I think Brian and I speak the same design love-language in this regard, because wherever and whenever possible, he insisted that the windows come right down to the floor or function as garden doors to keep the flow of indoors to outdoors as effortless as possible.

Isn't the rear elevation of the house gorgeous? Totally a modern classic. 
These doors were swung wide for the little fête we enjoyed together, showing off this house's true design destiny: a lifetime of effortless entertaining. Dream House Wish List? Check.


There are a couple of ways in which this year's Princess Margaret Lotto Showhome exemplifies my personal passion for handmade craftsmanship. The first is the fireplaces. Not only did Brian design a beautiful two-way fireplace for the front hall entryway and living room to share as a warm Canadian welcome on a cold winter's night {pictured below}, but he also appointed a decadent and refined marble fireplace to serve as the focal point for the family room and the Master Ensuite. All of the fireplaces in the house were hand-carved in Portugal. {Note to self: Design trip to Portugal for inspiration = a must!}

Detail of the Art Deco inspired fireplace surround in the Family Room.

Is unwinding at the end of each day in a classic cast iron tub while mesmerized by the hypnotic sway of flickering flames on your Dream House Wish List? Yes? Me too. Check and Check.

Note the master vanity floating in front of a large window - the perfect spot for flawless makeup application!
The second brilliant touch of hand-made craftsmanship in this house is found on the wallpaper in the dining room. From afar you might think it is "just pretty," but this wallpaper is anything but "just pretty." It's actually the secret gem in the house, which you realize when you get up close to it. The beautiful chinoiserie of flowering branches and birds has been painstakingly hand embroidered onto the silk paper by artisans from England's Fromental. The colour palette was customized just for this house. It's truly exquisite! Just look at the feathers on the bird in the second photo below.


One of my design signatures for many years has been detailed floors - specifically with the use of mosaics inset as tile carpets and with the use of larger tiles to create herringbone and chevron patterns. Naturally, Brian features both in this spectacular Showhome. 

{I'm beginning to think he has been reading my Dream Home Diaries!}

I particularly love the use of these simple subway tiles {above} to create the striking yet subtle herringbone pattern featured on the main floor of the house. The tiles look like natural stone but are in fact a quartz composite called Technoquartz, making them perfect for high traffic areas.

The herringbone pattern, as you know, is my all-time favourite and I feel it grounds and elevates the main floor all at once with an approachable sophistication that is just my cuppa. Brian shared that he found these tiles stacked in a discounted section of the showroom and started playing with them while everyone else was chatting. He knew they were the perfect choice the moment he'd laid out the herringbone pattern. Now, you've got to love a man who scoops up a deal and creates something as beautiful as this with it!

I hate to be a tease, but I'm going to leave you hanging on until tomorrow for the next instalment of details from this gorgeous house! There's truly too much to squeeze into one post, and I want to do it justice. I hope what you've seen so far will fuel some dream house dreaming tonight.


All images courtesy of The Princess Margaret Welcome Home Sweepstakes

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Four Fabulous Reasons to Join Me at Blogpodium!

In just one short week, hundreds of Canada's brightest and best bloggers will gather at the event of the year for reigniting our blogging fire: Blogpodium. For all the summits and conferences and gatherings that happen south of the border for American Bloggeratti, Blogpodium is really the it conference for those of us in the great {and, thank God, not-yet-white} north.

"Why should I be there?" I hear you asking. Here are four fabulous reasons to join me at the table:

1. Relationships In Real Life

Last year I sat around a lunch table with a group of amazing and inspiring women from across the country and inadvertently landed right next to the lovely Lisa Canning. We compared pregnancy notes {we were both pregnant at the time} and dished about life as interior designers and what our goals were for our blogs. It was so wonderful to connect with someone who was experiencing a lot of the same joys and challenges I was facing, and we've kept in touch since then!


The internet can be a lonely place, loves. Even though we may be connecting with tens of thousands of people with our posts, we don't get to connect over coffee most of the time. And I don't know about you, but relationships are my oxygen, my fuel and what reignites in me a desire to inspire and create meaningful content. After all, if it's not for meaningful connections with real people then who is it for? So come and put faces to names and meet new kindred spirits. You'll be glad you did.

2. Inspiration and Collaboration

This is a phenomenal opportunity to hear people's stories and learn from their successes. Not just those with a mic, but also those sitting right beside you. The world of blogging is an ever-evolving medium, and having the opportunity to be a part of the conversation about where we've come and where we are going helps to shape it for the better...for all of us. And who knows? You might just find someone you want to collaborate with - on a series of posts, on a project or as a peer mentor. Come open and ready to both give and receive.

3. Brand Relationships

I am duly impressed with the fruitful efforts of the Blogpodium team in engaging with fantastic brands. They continue to aim higher and work harder to provide an environment for you to see and be seen so to speak. From the market-like environment of the breaks to the targeted breakout sessions, this is a brilliant opportunity to connect with brands that really understand a mutual win mindset.

4. Flat-out Fabulous Content

It is so easy to create noise and fluff in a world that is already cluttered with the DIY-how-to-become-an-internet-sensation-overnight-glitter-glue of social media. That is NOT what you will find here. From marketing experts educating you on SEO and how to architect brand partnerships to photography and vlogging workshops, you will be taking notes, picking up business cards and making the connections you need to propel your platform forward, loves. The keynotes will inspire you, the breakout workshops will equip you, and together it will fuel you for a fabulous finish to 2014 and a fresh start for the New Year ahead!

So here's to making connections, learning, growing, and shaping this fun and fabulous world together as we get our inspiration on. I hope you'll join me!


All photos by the fabulous Annawithlove Photography
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