"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Tailored House: Kitchen, Before and After

The Kitchen Before
That window is now our garden door, as it was originally.
Our entire renovation was really all about the kitchen.  Isn't that often the way?  The kitchen is undoubtedly the most important room in the house and ours has always been a hub of activity.  I spend loads of time in there and I always knew I would change up this kitchen significantly.  We waited nearly ten years which was a good thing because we really knew what we wanted by the time we embarked on the project.
The white MDF cupboards were falling off of their hinges by the end and I was plenty tired of the yellow tiles I used to cover the formica counters and vinyl flooring back in 2006.

Our stove was always a problem but it was nearly new in 2005 when we bought the house.  The cooktop was ceramic electric with uneven, slow heat.  It frustrated me daily and burned hotspots in our Le Creuset blue collection.
I knew that our new stove was going to be large in comparison and the centre of the kitchen.  I must have looked at every brand of range over the years.  We also didn't have a range hood so that was going to a be a key purchase as well... I had plenty of daydreams about extraction fans and their odour-removing powers!
Our dreadful stove which was completely broken at the end.
The cupboards were very frustrating in that they ended three feet below the high ceiling in our kitchen; those cupboard tops were absolute magnets for greasy grime and I'm so relieved I don't have to try to clean them anymore.  It was impossible!
The picture window was another issue, it was blank and flat without character, it really didn't match the mood of our 1915 house.  It also didn't open for any fresh air.  The small window which did open (in the first picture above) had originally been the garden door of the house and our plan was to restore it and to build some big stone steps leading from the new door onto the terrace (which you can see here).  Eating outdoors had always been a challenge because we didn't have direct access from the kitchen, every fork and plate had to be hauled through our dining room (the room that is now our sitting room).

Here is the "Before" view into our kitchen from what is now our sitting room:
The view from the doorway, notice the giant picture window that didn't open.
Notice too that the sink was across the room from the stove.
Many times I nearly ran into a rascal with a boiling pot of water as I rushed from stove to sink.

Here is the "After":
Everyday dish storage is in drawers to the right of the dishwasher.
That makes for easy unloading.
The sink is by Franke.
The counters are Caesarstone. 
The sink remained in the same spot though we switched the dishwasher to the opposite side.  The window was replaced with three separate wooden windows which open (with retractable screens).  The stove is placed where the refrigerator once was, creating a cozy corner between stove and sink for cooking, out of all of the design changes I appreciate that the most!
The tall cupboard to the right of the windows holds our glassware.
The cupboards go the full height of the 10' ceilings and the entire room was finished with a 7.5" wooden crown moulding.  The cupboards themselves are a glazed maple.
The chandelier is circular in shape with recycled glass shades.  The cupboards above the refrigerator hold my extra sets of dishes which previously had to be stored in the basement.
The colour palette was chosen in part because the neutral tones set off my beloved Emma Bridgewater pottery: muslin, buff and buttermilk are some of the colours used.
I asked our designer for a set of open shelves reminiscent of an English dresser, for pottery display, cookbooks and the kitchen radio (very important for listening to CBC all day).

The view into the sitting room from the kitchen.
I can stand at the range and talk to MrBP as he has a scotch before dinner.
They used salvaged barn board for the shelves which add weight and texture.  The cupboard underneath on the far right holds two cases of wine, and the drawers hold serving pieces and kitchen linens.

The range is the star of the kitchen:
This is the door that leads to our tv room, close to the kitchen for snacks.
We chose a marble tile in a herringbone pattern as the backsplash and brought it right up to the ceiling.  MrBP chose it really, I think because it reminds him of his favourite tweed jackets.
 The range hood, which is also by LaCornue, has literally changed my life.  It has five settings from low to high depending on what I'm cooking as well as a series of spotlights.
The Star of the show.
I find I use the two ovens quite often, likely due to the fact that I'm baking more frequently.  The copper trim speaks to the bits of copper we've purchased over the years on trips to Paris, Dehillerin is a favourite stop for us.
One of the reasons we waited so long to renovate our kitchen was the flooring: we knew we wanted hardwood which would need to be carried through the main floor, and ideally up to the second and third floors as well.  This was a major job, we needed to move out of the house so it could be done properly and it would also mean replacing the millwork (baseboards).
You can see by the view into the foyer that using the same flooring opens up the space.  The other benefit of the hardwood everywhere is that I can walk barefoot in my house which I love to do, I was forever wearing wellie boots on the cold, hard tile floors.
The range is surprisingly easy to clean, a simple wipe of the stainless steel surface is all it takes.  The ovens are not self-clean but so far haven't proven problematic, a bit of a scrub and wipe takes care of any spills.
CornuFe 110 La Cornue
The kitchen is not any larger but the garden door opens the room to the terrace and carries the eye outwards, I just love having this door in my kitchen.  I can nip out to my herb garden for some lovage or basil for dinner and it's easy peasy to carry our dinner outdoors.
"Sheep on Mars" painting by my friend Patricia MacDonald.
The next instalment of the tour will feature our foyer with its subtle changes, and our thought-process on floor plans and flow, I hope you'll join me.
Enjoy your Sunday Darlings!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Domestic Weekend

Lily of the Valley from our garden.
 It's that time of the year that we enjoy so much after the long winter: the house is open to the garden and the domestic chores have extended to the outdoors.  MrBP loves to work in the garden and will be edging, planting and generally covering himself with dirt like a grown-up Pig-Pen.  I'll be cooking, hanging laundry outside and washing some windows.
One benefit of a long winter is that everyday I wake up and I'm surprised that spring is here!

I'm working on my "Tailored House" posts involving the kitchen, foyer and some Slapdash Decorating I've done for our outdoor spaces.  If you're around this weekend please check back in for these posts.

Are you having a domestic weekend or are you off on an adventure?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fresh From the Romper Room: JCrew June Arrivals

With the addition of short sleeves this was my grade seven gym uniform.
 JCrew now has an entire section on the website dedicated to rompers.  Some women wear these so well, others have terrible flashbacks to the one-piece blue uniforms (rompers) worn in grade seven gym class.  Did anyone else have to wear one of those things?
 The dress above is not a romper but somehow reminds me of one.  Yet, I do like that neckline.

Likely due to the fact that I grew up in the 1980's watching all of those career-women movies I sometimes imagine what sorts of outfits would be appropriate for the office if I had one to go to.  I like this linen dress, below, but the pocket placement would have to be perfect, wouldn't it?
JCrew Suiting
 I guess one couldn't go wrong with a plain, tailored shirtdress?
Plain tailored shirtdress in Italian stretch wool.

 I find the tipped cashmere sweater, below, so fetching: it reminds me of 1920's tennis wear.  It looks paper thin and delicate, treat with kid gloves I would say.
Collection Cashmere Tipped Polo Sweater
 Now, this skirt below with the high slit up the front, I'm not sure how office appropriate this would be, but I like the belt, the loose shirt with the popped-up collar, the giant earrings, the colour scheme generally.
Short Sleeve Popover in Oxford Blue
 I find these shiny leather pumps in an unusual grey colour darned attractive:
Elsie Glossy Leather D'Orsay Pumps
 Look they come in pink:
 Speaking of pink, this is a nice arrangement:
Crossover Pencil Skirt in Plumeria Jacquard
 If I lived in a big city and wore summer office clothes in a palette of cream, grey and black I would be sourcing these bags:
Mercado Global Madeline Tote
 The tote bag could double as a weekender and the clutch bag with the adorable tassels would be perfect for running out to lunch or going for after-work drinks.
Mercado Global Marabella Clutch
Thanks for window-shopping the new arrivals with me.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Tailored House: A Sitting Room

Sitting Room

The view from the sitting room into the kitchen.
Cushions in Kravet velvets and trims.
 The day we moved into our house ten years ago our good friend Christopher said "you have to switch the dining room/sitting room".  We weren't sure about it, it meant re-locating the dining room a few feet further from the kitchen as well as creating a sitting room that was slightly smaller in size... and though it would have a fireplace for a focal centre it would also deal with the opening (into the room) of the garden doors.
We solved the problem of those space-wasting doors in our renovation of the house by restoring the garden door to the kitchen (as it was built in 1915) and transforming those garden doors into a window seat addition to the sitting room (see my previous post on our window seat addition here).
In the end those few feet created just the space needed for a functional sitting room.

We purchased a very slim bronze reading lamp for the cozy corner of the sofa.
 After toying with the idea of adding on to our kitchen in order to create another spot for meals and gatherings we had decided to restore our house with minimal impact on the footprint: our garden is important to us and is a real sanctuary during the urban summer.  A large kitchen addition might have had the adverse affect of creating "useless rooms": a dining room unused, a sitting area neglected.  We tried to adopt the philosophy of using every square inch of our space, tailoring the house as it were.

 It was also of course a matter of cost, a large addition would have been priced to the maximum of our budget while a much smaller one, a window seat space as it ended up, would allow us to create a pretty sitting room and renovate the finishes and decorating on all four floors of living space.

In the end Christopher was right, the room switch has proved to be a brilliant idea, the sitting room functions really well in the former dining space (especially with the fireplace as a focal point for the seating) and the front room seems a natural choice for the dining area.
The blue velvet cushion is my favourite.
 Two weeks ago our designer Julie brought over our last touches for the room: the cushions, the bench cushion for the window seat and a lamp that bridges the traditional-modern aesthetic we've been thinking about.
A table lamp and a reading lamp, along with the ceiling chandelier, provide the lighting.
 My advice to anyone with an older home with a "challenging" floor plan would be to consult a designer who has plenty of experience dealing with older homes, (and not just their decoration but the underpinnings needed to create an actual space for embellishment, we spent many years doing the "unseen" work before we embarked on this renovation).
The sofa has some depth to it for the taller folks.
The window seat provides extra seating when we entertain a bigger crowd.
 You might feel your rooms are small in comparison to modern homes but do you really to need to add space?  It's so costly and always takes the use away from other areas... old homes were designed with specific space-for-use and you might find your family can adapt quite easily to these ideas of dedicated space.

 Our sitting room was finished with attention to detail, right down to the new stone flooring in front of the fireplace:
Our designer found this end-piece of granite for us.

An Edwardian table, specific to the age of our house fits nicely in the corner.

The coffee table is slightly modern but echoes the circular table in the corner.

Time for Wine
I'm planning to write more posts on our finished renovation by breaking them up into a series under "The Tailored House" title.  Next up is the kitchen (which you've viewed a bit of) and the foyer (which was transformed quite dramatically simply by removing doors, switching out light fixtures and painting trim), then we'll work our way upstairs to the second and third floors.
I hope you're having a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Colour Story for Spring and Early Summer

Ruby red Mackintosh coat, a JCrew collaboration from a few years ago.
One of my favourite spring coats, quite warm when layered.
 By early March I was so fed up with winter that I switched my closet over to spring items... but of course I wasn't really wearing anything even remotely spring-like.  I did stop wearing grey and black because I simply couldn't stand it anymore.  I wore my navy Brora coat in a warm alpaca every day with some navy tweed Aigle boots.  There were lots of socks, my favourite Goldsign jeans and a couple of navy cashmere sweaters, both old JCrew, that made up my daily uniform.

However restricting that wardrobe might sound it was really uplifting to see the spring-like items in my closet (even if I couldn't wear them): the Mackintosh raincoat in a ruby red from JCrew, the dotty scarf in blue and red from Brora, the lively frocks from Tory Burch and eshakti and the navy cotton tweed day coat from Brora that was far too skimpy for my climate but still, an inspiration to behold.  Sunny days were on the way, hold fast!

Now that we are having spring I haven't veered from the colour story though I do get to actually wear some of those items now... and it's pure bliss!  I find I am very drawn to stripes (like many of us), also navy Tretorn sneakers, a big sparkly necklace, bright blues and frocks that are on the fun side.
Here are some snaps from my current colour story:
Big sparkly JCrew necklace, navy striped Tory Burch shirt and navy Tretorn sneakers.

This navy wool dress from JCrew was the core of my early spring wardrobe, when paired with Big Sparkly it became festive.

The blue Louis Vuitton pairs well with the wools of spring as well as the frocks of early summer.
During the gloomy days it was a  shot of colour and promise.

I wore this silk Brora frock on the first warm spring day for a special lunch with our son.
You can see it has a love affair with the LV bag: made for each other.

I bought this dress from eshakti thanks to our dear Janet!  I've worn it so many times already.

With my navy patent Repetto heels.

With that navy cotton tweed Brora day coat, this coat looks great over jeans as well.

My chambray "house-dress", it has a really simple collar and fairly tailored shape.
Dress by Eileen Fisher, scarf: vintage Hermes.

Close up of that vintage Hermes scarf, this dress is so plain, it definitely benefits from a little scarf coverage.

My short tweed jacket from Brora in navy, turquoise and red.
This is a favourite of mine to wear with jeans and a simple tee shirt...

...and those really beautiful and favourite red patent shoes by Ferragamo.
Scout tried to eat these shoes!  My daughters saved them phew. Thanks girls.

I think early summer deserves bits of red.  This JCrew red linen blouse is a real favourite: the perfect red.

It pairs so well with an older JCrew linen skirt with some exquisite embroidery.
I stopped eating potato chips in early April so I could fit into this skirt again: oh the sacrifice ;)

Inspiration for my colour story: a canoe built by hand in Muskoka Ontario.
Our son spent two weeks learning from this craftsman when he was a teenager.
This particular canoe belongs to our friends Berna and John and lives at their cottage.

I have a few Tory Burch frocks that never fail me.
They have full skirts and defined waists, they'll soon be vintage but I treasure them and wear them over and over.

Blue sparkly water: summer!

I still think Tory Burch does the best straw bags, this is one of my favourites.
Especially paired with these unusual flats, also Tory Burch, and so appropriate for the dock.

This emerald green linen dress from JCrew is the one full-length dress I own.
It pairs perfectly with the Kate Spade necklace.

Kate Spade turtle necklace.

Tory Burch silk jersey dress with Tory Burch pendant.

Another Tory Burch frock, older, but paired with the same Tory Burch pendant.

Tory Burch skirt (very old nearly vintage) with red patent Ferragamo's.

For this summer I added in two simple tee shirt dresses by St. James.
Made in France they are very easy and stripey.
I also purchased the navy/ecru stripe: very easy for wearing around the house or out when paired with a nice shoe.
By the time we reach what I think of as "High Summer" aka end of July/early August, I'll be ready to switch colour stories: pink pants, blush heels, ivory tops, blush stripes, brown loafers, faded Goldsign jeans and my brown LV handbag... all set off by giraffe print metallics and golden shades from JCrew.

Of course let's not rush the seasons... enjoy the weather (especially if you are in the northern hemisphere where spring has sprung) and I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Doing any plotting for your own colour stories?  What are they looking like lately?