One Room Challenge | Fall 2018 | Master Bedroom Makeover | Week One

“Anyone can escape into sleep

we are all geniuses when we dream

the butchers and the poets equal there.”

– Emile M. Cioran

I feel like I begin every Week One post for the One Room Challenge by saying that I can’t believe it’s that time of year again, but I truly can’t believe it’s ORC time again! It’s been awhile since I took this designer plunge as I’ve been quite content to cheer from the sidelines as designer friends sprinted to the 6 week finish line. I nearly didn’t jump this round either, but a lovely friend and the owner of Whittington & Co (my custom workroom here in Toronto) convinced me it was time to do another project together, and it seems this Master Bedroom Makeover was meant to be, as it’s all come together quite miraculously at the last minute.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the One Room Challenge is the brainchild of Linda Weinstein of Calling It Home. This 6 week online design event links designers from across North America and, like a virtual linking of arms, we collectively push to complete a space in 6 short weeks, documenting our progress in our weekly blog posts. The ORC usually serves as the impetus most of us designers need to finish spaces in our own homes, avoiding the dreaded “shoemaker syndrome.” Why is it that our own homes always seem to be at the bottom of the list? That’s why this push is always such a Godsend! And as you’ll see, I’ve been needing it for our Master Bedroom.

Before I share the “befores” with you, I’d love to look back on some of the spaces I’ve had the pleasure of designing for previous editions of the One Room Challenge.

To be honest, most of them have been rather massive undertakings, so I’m grateful and rather relieved to be taking on something much smaller with truly just one room, and not a particularly big one at that. That said, it’s been my observation that Master Bedrooms are almost always one of the last rooms in the house to get properly finished. It makes sense to start with the most social spaces in our homes as we work through our design and decorating budgets, but I’ve been struck recently by how critical the Master Bedroom is for creating a healthy sanctuary in which to restore and refresh ourselves. After all, our sleep is the time in our circadian rhythms when our bodies do the most regenerating, so creating a healthy context for that process could not be more important.

Our master as it is currently isn’t totally horrific, I suppose. It’s just very unfinished and lacking in some key healthful elements that will make it a true sanctuary for Graham and I each night. Here’s the before in all its yawn-worthy glory.


  1. I like that we have a king sized bed
  2. I like the neutral colour palette
  3. I like the Barbara Barry silk coverlet and Euros, we’ve just had them for over a decade
  4. I like having dark walls as it makes for a better sleeping environment

Admittedly not the longest list, but at least there are things to be appreciated in the “now and not yet!”

  1. Probably most glaringly obvious are the pathetically undersized, horribly outdated side tables that are overflowing with books on BOTH sides of the bed. To say we are in desperate need of an upgrade here is a massive understatement, not just because we are book lovers, but also for relocating some of our clothes storage so we can centre the bed in the room and create better symmetry.
  2. The headboard looks fine, but the truth is that after more than a decade of use it’s become unstable and the fabric is stained in places from pre-bedtime hand cream applications gone wrong. I also don’t love that the metal frame under the boxspring squeaks as if to tell us that it’s time to lose some weight. OK, so maybe it is, but I don’t need my bedframe reminding me of it!
  3. Sometimes it’s what you DON’T see that matters most. Exibit A: The mattress. It is not organic and – as I’ve learned from my ongoing deep dive into designing the ultimate Healthy Home – it’s basically like sleeping on a bed of gasoline thanks to the flame retardants that have been sprayed all over it. (Yes, this is true of every other standard mattress on the market). As someone who is very health conscious, and frankly working my tail off to overcome Lyme Disease, I need to do everything I can to eliminate toxins from my home. The mattress is a biggie and I can’t wait to make this healthy “ditch and switch” in our Master Bedroom.
  4. Exhibit B on the list of “things you don’t see”: The lighting. You can’t tell from these simple iPhone snaps, but our bedside tables are getting loose…which means the shades rarely sit perfectly square and level…which yes, totally triggers my designer OCD.
  5. Exhibit C on the list of “things you don’t see”: The ceiling light is a basic, cheap flush mount which, in essential terms, inspired no one. Ever. It truly just makes you want to close your eyes. Why these hideous things are ever made is beyond me. It’s time for some inspired lighting, and this is one element I cannot wait to see installed. Photos of the current ceiling offender coming in an upcoming post (I promise).
  6. A lack of design story. Sure, it’s not the ugliest room I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t inspire me at all. That’s definitely due in large part to the lack of mouldings, art and appropriately sized, beautiful rug to tie it all together. All of those details promise to be addressed in this little makeover of ours.

And that, my friends, is all I will share with you for now with this Week One introduction to our Master Bedroom Makeover! Next week, look for details on the custom bed, the fabrics involved and some decisions to be made. And in the meantime, check out what the 20 featured designers are up to as well as all of the Guest Participants here! So much design goodness. Only 6 weeks. Let the games begin!

By |October 4th, 2018|0 Comments

Backyard Makeover | The Big Reveal!

” There is no joy without gratitude.”

–   Brené Brown

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-table-setting

All good things are worth the wait, but I’m so sorry I’ve kept you waiting for this reveal! The last few weeks have been full of unexpected plot twists. From logistical issues to a last minute change in the stone, it was an 11th hour kind of finish for this lovely backyard makeover of ours. That said, I hope you’ll agree that it turned out rather beautifully. I’m impossibly grateful to everyone involved in making this happen. It’s beyond dreamy to have such a beautiful outdoor space to host meals with family and friends, and I’m so happy I get to share it with you today!

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-sectional

The truth is, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to share this reveal for awhile due to some really great upcoming news on the publication front, but they’ve graciously allowed me to share it with you now, so double yay!!

With all that good news out of the way, let’s take a minute to savour some of the details together, shall we? First off, how AMAZING are these Sunbrella fabrics? I’m crazy in love with how the French mattress inspired tufting with the flange turned out on the seat cushions. My friends at Deka Home & Patio did a brilliant job of bringing that vision to life. And then the texture, artistry and quiet drama that the Holly Hunt Great Outdoors fabrics bring to the accent cushions is all kinds of magical if you ask me. I feel like the look is both fresh and timeless. I love the juxtaposition of the quiet colour palette with that bold brushstroke pattern. It feels approachable yet sophisticated. Totally my jam.

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-sectional-close-up

We also have to talk about that custom coffee table for a minute, because HELLO LOVAH! My friend Tony and his amazing team at Dinuovo are total stone superstars. “Ain’t no mountain high, ain’t no valley low…” they won’t go through to make the project perfect. They are a boutique stone fabricator with integrity, attention to detail and a lot of human kindness. That, my friends, is a rare and precious find.

Our last minute switch was to Polycor’s Pearl Grey, and to be honest, I had been torn between that and the original White Cherokee all along. I feel like the coffee table especially looks rather exotic with that giant vein swooping down the front, and I love the honed finish. I’m totally smitten with how the Pearl Grey looks with the Holly Hunt fabrics. It’s like they were made for each other!

I also have to express my immense gratitude to Ciot for getting the slabs from Montreal to Tony’s shop at Dinuovo. It takes a village, and it sure took a village with this one, friends!

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-dining-pergola

It had been my design vision ever since we first installed our two stone-framed pea gravel patios to create an inviting pergola for the upper level. I wanted it to feel like an outdoor dining room – even a private dining room at a restaurant – so that friends would feel like they had entered the design equivalent of a secret garden when they stepped inside.

I absolutely love the Toja Grid system we used to construct it because it’s a) brilliant and b) shockingly easy to install. (They’ve extended their Labour Day sale, so if you’re thinking about doing one of these yourself, hop on over and pick up those components STAT.) Painting it all out with Fusion Mineral Paint really integrated the look with the freshly stucco’d house, and the off-white Sunbrella drapery panels totally transformed it into the private hideaway I’d been hoping for.

I had originally been planning to create my own tassel chandelier using Sunbrella tassels, and while that would have been fresh and unexpected, I love the classic yet casual vibe of the Brightech string lights. One of my favourite things of all time is to sit out on a patio at night under a string of globe lights and savour the breeze, good company and a glass of wine. The fact that I can now do that right here at home is nothing short of decadent!

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-dining-table-1

I have to say, one of the (many) things I love about the way this project came together is the contrast of the strong and beautiful 10 foot long Polycor stone dining table with the delicate but modern Masters Dining Chairs from Structube. I felt like these chairs were instant classics the moment the design came out a few years ago, and they are the perfectly wipeable, stackable solution for this outdoor space.

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-table-settings

When it comes to setting that beautiful table, well, I couldn’t help but do something pretty, right? I aim for “hospitality over entertaining” when friends and family are gathered around my table – one is about connecting and the other is more about putting on a good show if you know what I mean. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love a few beautiful touches on special occasions, and finishing this project was definitely that. And why not elevate the everyday, right?

I’ve been hankering for a bit more colour in my everyday life lately, and those frosted plum Mete glasses from EQ3 more than fit the bill. The frosting feels so soft and feminine, yet bold with that shot of colour.

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-table-from-above

I love how the frosted glasses play off the textural softness of those gorgeous light grey Lip Service linen napkins. They are so high quality, and the frayed fringe around the edges feels a bit like a tassel trim. I anchored each place setting with a big hunk of Himalayan Sea Salt, because I will always be obsessed with simple beauty from the earth, and that blushy hue will never tire in my book.

Also, how GORGEOUS are all of these photos by my brilliant friend Reid? The one above in particular shows off the beauty of the vein structure in Polycor’s Pearl Grey marble. It also shows off Dinuovo’s genius, as they managed to create a bookmatch out of slabs that were not actually bookmatched. Have I mentioned that they are total stone superstars? Oh yes, and it also shows off Reid’s collaborative spirit, because he was the one to bring those freshly picked Niagara peaches to the shoot “just in case.” That’s just the kind of guy he is, which is one of the many reasons I love working with him.

Sarah Walker-The Curated House-Backyard Makeover-dining-table-2

I confess I am now praying that the warm weather will stick around until at least mid-October so that we can celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving outside around that stunning table. Wherever we gather, I will clearly have so much to be grateful for.

HUGE thanks once again to the mighty design village that made this project possible (sources below). I am truly grateful to each and every one of you.




Interior Design, Sarah Walker of The Curated House; Photography, Reid Lambshead, William Reid Photography; All performance fabrics for sectional and drapery, Sunbrella; Decorative outdoor toss cushion fabrics, Holly Hunt Great Outdoors by Sunbrella; sewing of all cushions + drapery panels, Deka Home + Patio; stone for tables, Polycor via Ciot; Fabrication of stone tables, Dinuovo Marble + Granite; Brackets and shade sails for dining pergola, Toja Grid; Masters Dining Chairs, Structube; paint for pergola, Fusion Mineral Paint; Grey marble bowl on coffee table, frosted purple drinking glasses, EQ3; Balinese wood beads with white tassle sitting in grey bowl on coffee table, Lynne Knowlton; Grey linen napkins, Lip Service Napkins; Globe String Lights, Brightech

By |September 7th, 2018|1 Comment

The Curated Home | An Interview with Grant K. Gibson

When I learned that Grant K. Gibson – one of Elle Decor’s Top 100 A Listers for 2018 – was launching a book entitled The Curated Home, I assumed we must be bosom design buddies. I mean, clearly this had to be someone with a passion for the thoughtful design process behind personalized spaces, right? Well, spoiler alert: Grant is as refreshing as the spaces he designs, and I’m thrilled to be able to share our recent chat with you alongside images of his beautiful new book.


Sarah Walker: You’ve lived in several major cities across the United States. How has each of them influenced your design perspective?


Grant Gibson: LA gave me a casual SoCal feel to my work while moving north to San Francisco led to embracing a more traditional vibe. Moving to the east coast has allowed me to bring an airiness, warmth and a more relaxed, comfortable ease to the tendency towards an otherwise stronger sense of tradition. That said, I always take from the personality of each city and marry that with the client and infuse it with my own design direction.


SW: I know from your book that we share a belief in telling stories through design. What unwritten design story are you dying to tell?


GG: I used to think that my ideal client would be one who gave me carte blanche, a blank cheque and a set of keys and said they’d be back in 6 months! After doing this for awhile, I definitely prefer collaborating with a client who is passionate about the products and the end space that is created specifically for them. We are always customizing a lot of pieces to tailor them just for the client’s needs and aesthetic. A client who likes to do things a bit outside the box and not like all of their friends’ spaces is what I’m looking for. Without collaboration, there is no feedback which leads to fear and doubt. I love seeing how a client responds and seeing them light up at the details. That’s what leads the process for me.


SW: What is one of your signature design moves that would tip us off to the fact that we’re looking at a Grant K. Gibson-designed space?


GG: I don’t think that I have one signature consistency throughout my portfolio. Some clients like more pattern, colour and wallpaper; some are more mid-century inspired; and others are more traditional. I’d say the consistency is an edited eye and a fresh take on tradition by taking something classical but not going too far in that direction, always with an eye to keeping it fresh for today.


SW: What historical design period do you love the most and why?


GG: I think that goes back to the previous question about consistency throughout my portfolio and a lack thereof. I love all periods and appreciate both traditional and contemporary, and love a balance therein. I think there’s something magical about seeing a modern dining room table paired with a more classical chair. I’m constantly looking at the balance and flow of the space – whether the amount of wood or metal or skirted upholstery. If you have show wood on a coffee table, for example, then perhaps you’ve used up your “wood card” for that space. I always want to pair things of different eras to create that overall balance, otherwise I think spaces can go too far down a certain pathway (ie. too Mad Men or too Grandma). Keep yourself open to different time periods. If we look at pieces in a fresh way, almost any period can look new and fresh.


SW: How do you feel about design trends? Any loves/hates of the moment?


GG: I try to avoid trends and be a bit more timeless and lasting with my designs. I can’t think of any trends that I’ve jumped onto, but clients definitely come to me with trendy items and I always try to tread lightly on that. You might think that animal print is fabulous today, but might not in a couple of years. So for example, rather than upholstering an entire chair in a leopard print, let’s do a pillow so that we can easily shift gears if and when that trend disappears. This is how I approach kids’ bedrooms as well. Rather than theming them around a celebrity like Taylor Swift or a favourite animal, I create a more neutral base with accents that can evolve as the child grows.


SW: Tell us 5 things every beautifully designed room should have.


A comfortable place to sit.
A place to set your drink.
Sufficient and dimmable lighting.
A balance of scale.

Fresh flowers, a candle or a scent to appeal to our sense of smell.


SW: Five essentials we’ll always find in your bag when you’re traveling?


1. Definitely ear plugs and an eye mask to acclimate into the sleeping cycle.
2. A great carry-on bag packed lightly so I’m never waiting for a checked bag. I just went to India last December and did it all with a carry-on. It’s all about editing your wardrobe down to the basics.
3. A comfortable pair of shoes (and a spare) plus dressier shoes for a nice night out.
4. My iPhone is such an incredible tool, from maps to texting to WhatsApp. I can’t imagine traveling without it.  I use it exclusively for travel photos and have given up the 35mm.

5. I have ongoing collections of folders for cities I’d like to visit. When I’m finally headed there, I bring a plastic sleeve full of articles such as “36 Hours In…” from the NY Times, articles from Condé Nast or Bon Appetite, or cut-outs from magazines about museums I want to visit. I do a lot of pre-planning before I go and have a brief specific to the city that I’ll review on the plane on the way there.


SW: How do you define luxury?


GG: For me, luxury is about time – time to travel, time to explore, time to have an adventure, time to get into bed with a book, time to take a bubble bath, time to savour a good meal in a restaurant. For me, luxury is experiential and doesn’t always have to be the most expensive thing. A picnic in Paris doesn’t have to cost a lot, but the time spent enjoying it is luxurious.


SW: How long are you willing to wait to find the right piece for a space?


GG: People are often afraid to have a space left incomplete, but I think an interior is a process and it can take some time to find the right table or chair. You might have a place holder for awhile while you search for “the one.” For example, I took forever to find the perfect coffee table for my home in San Francisco. I had a place holder coffee table while searching 1st Dibs, eBay and everywhere I could think to search. The place holder was fine, but not what I envisioned. Instead of rushing and spending the money on a piece that wasn’t quite right, I waited until I happened upon a pair of tables at a Paris flea market. I had them shipped back to San Francisco and they made the space. The thing is, I had almost pulled the trigger a couple of days previous on a table that was “almost,” and I’m so glad I waited and had an open mind to realize that the pair were even better than the single coffee table I’d had in mind.

That said, it’s easy to get caught up looking for that “perfect piece” only to realize it doesn’t exist. At that point, you either need to redefine the parameters or have it custom made. From buying a home to buying a chair to finding the perfect guy, if you’re looking to check every little thing off your list, you’re probably going to have to compromise at some point. The search requires a certain degree of flexibility, no matter what you’re searching for.


SW: What is one of your favourite unexpected design details?


GG: Wallpaper. It completely transforms a space. It’s hard for clients to envision what a small sample will look like, but I think the impact it has – from a powder room to a dining room – can change the whole feeling of a room.


SW: Tell us about the one designer who has influenced you the most.


GG: My influences range from Miles Redd to Albert Hubley depending on the client project. I’ll always pull out design books that speak to the specific space I’m working on, but those two are definitely go-to’s for me.


Grant’s beautiful book releases TOMORROW at all major booksellers both online and in stores, and signed copies are available through Grant’s website. Be sure to get out and pick up your copy for some delicious design inspo to fuel your need for beauty!


And for those of you loyal readers who are looking for an update on our little backyard makeover, be sure to check back in the next couple of days for details on our project progress. Can’t wait to share more with you!


By |August 13th, 2018|0 Comments