Before/After master bath

Thought that it would be fun to show you a before and after of the master bath.

Bathrooms need to feel fresh and personal, and for us soothing

The vanities(Pat’s sits directly across from mine) are taken from the kitchen which were once used as desks.  I re-used many of the good pieces of cabinetry, and simply re-painted.  In this case a high gloss outdoor black paint.

The jumping off point was the wide plank ceramic tile.  I used it in the steam room/shower, the bathroom, and water closet.  The  pebbles lead across the front of the tub and are also in the steam room, the vanity (old desk) is oak.

What was important in this room, simplicity and function.

Even though I enjoy building and renovating,  I also like to re-use what I can.  All remaining  functional pieces go to Habitat for Humanity.  I know then that they are getting another life, not being thrown in land-fill, and contribute to a worthy cause.  

Being conscious of reducing new buys, re-using what is salvageable and recycling any other items made me feel good.  It takes planning and effort, but everyone wins.


Breakfast of champions for aristocracy everywhere…even here!

When we moved into Summerhill, one room had me stymied.  The previous owners used this room as a sitting room, but honestly how many more places do I need to sit or lay down?…o’k reclining is one of my favorite activities and I do try to make it look cerebral by having very smart books and dictionaries laying about;)….but I decided that this room would be a breakfast room.  How so very proper!  How utterly charming and perhaps aristocratic at the same time.  Since no one is handing out “lord” and “lady” titles these days, I must remain satisfied in my humble post as “the little misses”.

I am happy to report that the breakfast room is usually a favorite of any that come to visit.  Admittedly, it is very pretty, but I think that our guests just enjoy the fact that there is food always available and they don’t have to ask to get it.

I love how this room greets us in the morning.  It overlooks a terraced garden, pond and it looks east.  The morning sun is always uplifting, which is great, because I need some encouragement to get out of bed!

The room is all about making sure that we start our day in the right frame of mind.  Breakfast was always something that we rushed through, but I really wanted to make it easy to make good choices.  I always have on hand fresh fruit, some cereal in antique canisters, euro-style bread for the toaster, and of course our coffee maker and espresso machine.!  The side-board is a stainless steel bakers table with a maple top ( an awesome hand-me-down from my brothers business, Coffeeco) and the table and chairs are Saarinen(I didn’t know who that was until I bought them…I just buy what I like-I am really not up on the who’s who!)   I found them at my favorite flea market.  I like the fact that they are tulip chairs and my cotton panels are tulip as well.  This whole room makes me smile every time I enter.

“Breakfast is a notoriously difficult meal to serve with a flourish”. Clement Freud.

 I sure do try.  People, take care of yourselves; inside/out!

Junk yard finds, diamonds in the rough

I am a big fan of seeking out flea markets and thrift shops.  People are either creeped out by my second hand scavenging or, they get it!.  My office is furnished with an American Art Deco dining room suite.  When I came upon this set at a flea market, it was tucked away in a corner…and not surprisingly, set up as a dining set.  I exclaimed that it would be perfect for office furniture or a bar. The proprietor was pleased that I could find a use for all of the pieces, as was I….maybe he was just happy to get rid of it, who knows:)?..being agreeable has its advantages when it comes to sales.

I store computer paper, and a million electrical/computer cords, that I have no idea what to do with!  Looks good to do that job:)

The chairs I recovered myself(I am patting myself  on the back;)…even though I was personally ridiculed by a Toronto designer who said that “animal prints are out”!  Oh really, ask Diane von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren, …or me!  …o’k I am not an expert, but I do love animal prints; they are a classic to me.  However,  it is just like a person wearing the latest trend that does not match their personality, you can tell!  Be surrounded by what speaks to YOU, not what someone else thinks you should have.  Every view that your eyes fall upon in your home is its own Still Life.

Be the artist of your own life, interiors and otherwise. 

not yo’ mamma’s ferns:an ode to Dee Dee

Sundays are a special day.  It has always included some sort of bacon breakfast, plenty of coffee and a long read of the newspaper.  Pat and I save the Saturday Toronto Globe and Mail for a good read on Sunday.  I go through pretty much the whole paper, but the fun is in The Style section…o’k and Tabatha Southey.   My husband and I routinely discuss/banter and always laugh at Russell Smiths piece.  I enjoy Dee Dee Taylor Eustace’s column as she is a well-regarded interior designer and architect:  two professions that I would have loved to have done, if I had been told there was more to choose from than teaching and nursing…neither of which  I would be good at….O’k, maybe I would have required to study harder too.  Anyway..

I developed a migraine today when Dee Dee(we are on a first name basis, though she doesn’t know that), slammed my beloved ferns!  Crushed my deep love for plants big and small!  Threw out to the millions reading her column that, …wait….I am hyperventilating….paper bag….breath…o’k….”the houseplant as decor is a dated idea.” !!!!! It gets worse!  ” As for ferns, keep them in the garden.” GASP!  Oh mon dieu!  I will allow that Dee Dee never grew up with Dr.Joseph Aloysius Kearns as her grandfather, but if she had, she would know that plants not only beautify a home, but clean the air too.  Literally, plants breathe life into a room by taking out the carbon dioxide, and replacing it with oxygen! Just a little old fashioned advice dedicated to my Grandpa:)  Saying that ferns have no place in your home, is like saying that parsley has no place in the kitchen! to make gremolata? how to finish most European dishes? ..and I don’t mean with a sprig.   How to make tabbouleh?  Parsley and ferns…. provide a pop of fresh colour, improves your health and is beautiful in a humble and classical way.

I am having a flash-back to just over a year after the explosion and we had moved back into the house; I invited a well known interior decorator from Toronto to help me put the house back together.  I was struggling with scale, colour, and lacked focus…among other things, effects that the blast had on my brain.

When I had the decorator come into our home to help put this humpty back together, I certainly wasn’t anticipating yet another crack up side the head.  Cruella, (my pet name for her) came in, scanned the entry and open space before her, dropped her coat on the hall chair, then pronounced : “No Plants!  Plants are passee.  Fresh flowers yes, plants no.”  Admittedly, she was looking at my trio of “snake plants” or  ” mother-in-laws tongue”, and I later agreed.  Not because the plants were not appealing, but because even symbolically I didn’t want a sharp mother-in-laws tongue in my house;)  Bad feng shui!
She then decried : ” animal prints are out, furs are out, and PLEASE change that china cabinet!…or at the very least cover the glass. ”  Well, as you can see, I did not heed her advice, nor take kindly to her brutal criticism of my home; my fragile nest.  What I thought I needed was guidance to make our house a home again.  The underlying lesson was that no one could do that, except me and my family.  Sometimes life delivers you the lessons that only you can learn.  We needed to step up to the plate and not look for someone else to fix things.
We all know people whose homes you walk into and there seems to be no scent of the inhabitants.  Sterile or messy it doesn’t matter, they evoke the same impression:  who are the people that live here?  I wanted, craved to have our home reflect our lives….not the lives or views of someone else.  If I want to put zebra on my chairs, I will!  If I want to put a fur (yes, real) throw on my bed or chair, I will.  If I want to put china in my china cabinet…say it’s not so!….oh yes,.I will!  Each gesture pointing to philosophy and interests.  If the antlers on the wall are from the previous years hunt by my husband, then not only will that happen, but you can bet that we will be gushing with pride as we serve you beautiful, luscious venison on our wedding china!
I don’t want to join our local Mennonites in their colony, but I do want to support them and enjoy their offerings.  I don’t want to be a vegan, but I do support a thoughtful approach to eating.  I really don’t want to be a decorator, but sure want to support the good ones.  Not all decorators are condescending, controlling people.  In fact, there are fabulous, thoughtful, intuitive designers out there that can guide and challenge you to find your own vision.—then help you execute it.  Great designers are a blessing; they skillfully and sometimes dramatically help you to reflect in your home, external manifestations of your self.  This is spiritual undertaking fit for those ready to exhume and dispatch of the old and unnecessary, and then seek out and embrace your present, conscious realization.
This I wish for you.  Living in a home that reflects your family is transformative and energizing.  Just as you should surround yourself with people that bring beauty, authenticity and support to your life, so should you surround your self with ” the things”  in your life, that honour, support and uplift you.  

karma by design…what goes around comes around/furniture and life

I have yet to understand the snobbery of one who turns their nose down to garage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores.  Lets be honest here; there is no difference between shopping at value village and an upscale antique store, except for the sticker price and the known pedigree of the item.

Like many people my age, “back in the day”, you might just as easily find your apartment sofa on a sidewalk as a parents basement.  It was common to see milk crates as chairs or book cases, and inflatable mattresses as beds.  Today, our university aged children have cool bedrooms from Ikea or…gasp!  The Brick.

This is a picture from my tack room.  The bakers table was my first purchase of an antique 18 years ago…I qualify it because I had previously owned lots of old/used things but this one had the cache of being labelled an “antique”!  I store horse wraps in the drawers and keep my journal out for daily reminders, changes in feed or notes to the vet.
The chair I love.  Good friends of ours were renovating a ski house 10 years ago and this was not going to be part of the new plans.  I was immediately drawn to the odd shape/tall back, and appreciated the craftsmanship of the woven seat.  In our previous home, it sat at the front entry.  Here, it is perfect for pulling my boots on.
Ooooohhhhh! how I adore this piece!  This was once the sideboard of a dining set.  I found this at a flea market along with the table, china cabinet and six chairs.  I broke the set up for different uses in the house.  Here, it is used in our office as a credenza, flanked by two of the chairs.
I guess what I am saying is….do not be afraid to look for ways to add function in your home by buying second-hand.  I feel better knowing that I have a beautiful and solid piece of “previously enjoyed” furniture, than to buy new, just to say that it is new.  It is gratifying to give credence to well designed, used furniture, and then make it your own.  It is also good for our environment.  When we consciously make decisions that honour the past, and protect the future, then invariably we all gain.
So every weekend I wish you the best basement stealing scores, successful thrift-shop surfing and unfettered flea market fascinations that all carry fun, frugality and vision!

laundry and the power to transform

I love laundry.  I have a special connection to laundering; I met my husband in the campus laundry mat at Queens.   If I could be wearing baggy sweatpants, big purple glasses and a volcanic cold sore and still manage to seem appealing; then surely there was something more to the act of laundering our clothes.

Many years ago when I was much busier(working, family, travelling),uncharacteristically I found myself bitter about doing the laundry.   This was a feeling that I would never have had before.  I always enjoyed the process of laundering clothes…sorting,loading from washer to dryer, folding from the dryer, folding from the laundry line, and yes—even ironing.  I had a moment of self pity: why am “I” the only one that does the laundry?  whine…whine…whine… Why can’t “someone else” do it? whine….whine…whine…

I remembered a quote from the book I was reading at the time,
“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. “Thomas Moore

I knew that truth, but I needed the reminder…  I recalled the days when I shopped a lot at second-hand stores and “vintage” shops;)  I remembered easily the fact that I didn’t always have the money to buy new clothes, and was diligent in keeping clothes clean so that I wouldn’t have to spend extra money laundering them.  I reminded myself that I was in fact, very blessed to be in the position of having clothes to launder, sheets to change and diapers to wash.  Changing the way I viewed the job, transformed the activity from a chore to an act of gratitude.

Most of us have read or heard of Eckhart Tolle’s books.  He is a spiritual leader from B.C. and his groundbreaking book, “The Power of Now” made him famous and one of “Oprah’s” favorites.  As referenced by the title, the importance of being present, not wishing your moments away, is the key to a heightened consciousness.  I would add, peace.  He put the consequences of complaining our moments away like this:”To complain is always non acceptance of what is.  It invariably carries with it an unconscious negative charge.”

So when I have my dog smiling at me because he has luxuriated in the bog, or fingerprints on the windows(when Emily was little), or dirty floors that need cleaning again: I make the shift from irritation to gratitude for animals in my life, children leaving their signatures, and people in my home.


This piece is by a local artist, George Zoethout.  I love original art and especially love to support local artists.  I am not overly knowledgeable of digital photography and all its forms, but when I saw this in the gallery, I knew that I wanted it to be a part of my home.

I was attracted by the colours, but greatly drawn in by the cherubic face looking up to the heavens.  This little girl was part of The African Childrens Choir that routinely comes to Canada to perform and raise money and awareness.  George took this photo when she performed in Goderich.

He then super-imposed her face over the back drop of a local old growth forest; known for its trails, wild-life and a delicate eco-system all supported by the canopy of oak, beech, ash and monstrous maples.

When I look at this piece and recognize its name, Hope, I wonder about all of our collective hopes.  This child carries at the very least hope for health, education, safe accessible drinking water, stability and safety…maybe some new clothes if she let herself go that far.

By including the forest as support to the subject, is the forest all on its own…hope?  A reminder of what supports us; water, clean air and healthy land?  Our collective hope for the child, if only in symbol.

My hope today is to enjoy the company of my husband, work in the gardens, our animals and the rituals of food.  I am blessed and always humbled each time I recognize the depths and form hope can take.