Archive for December, 2010

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Room Design by Ashley Whittaker; HouseBeautiful.com

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Michael Penney – Your Friendly Neighbourhood Decorator


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Last night I took a spin through my local HomeSense (Whitby, Ontario) and was shocked at some of the amazing furniture and accessories I found.  There can be a lots of crazy stuff packed into those stores, but last night I found some classic, well-proportioned and sophistcated pieces that would be perfect in any home.

Check out what I saw…

The first thing that caught my eye was this lovely hutch.  I love the glass doors (those diagonal lines are just masking tape).  The inside of the cabinet is painted a deep watery blue.

And this pair of industrial side tables were great too.

Baskets are one of my favourite decorative elements and these charcoal lidded baskets look much more expensive than HomeSense.  I can see these as a grouping on a wide mantle or on top of a console.  Even a smaller pair would be nice on a big coffee table.

These two consoles had a classic shape and are actually clad in a thin layer of burnished metal.  There are tiny nails hammered into the surface which is a nice mix with the more curvy leg line.

These gray-washed linen-lined baskets came in lots of sizes and would be perfect pretty much anywhere!

Finally, I loved this rustic sideboard with the galvanized metal top.  It has three drawers and open shelves that would look great in a kitchen or dining room piled up with white dishes and baskets spilling over with linens.  Very Darryl Carter on a dime!

The prices on these pieces were totally reasonable so go check ’em out but hurry because they go fast!

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Step into my office!

Created by Stephen Earle et al; Photo by Ann E. Berman; MSL June 2001

I’d like you to send me your questions!  Take a few snap shots of your space, your furniture, and any other decorating elements you’re working with and send them to me.  Use the contact tab at the top of this blog (michaelpenney8@gmail.com) and I’ll see what I can do!

My pencil is sharpened, my paint swatches are at the ready and my head is full of ideas.  Go on, ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Decorator now!

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Out and About is going to be another regular thread on MichaelPenneyStyle.  I’m constantly looking at the world around me and will be sharing my inspirations with you here.

Okay take a look at this house.  I took these photos a month or two ago when Sara and I were driving home to Belleville to visit family.  We decided to take the scenic route along highway 2 and boy was it worth it!  We saw lots of cute houses (some even for sale!) but this one takes the cake.

I think it has a certain Gray Gardens vibe doesn’t it?

I know!  I know!  This place is to die for with its majestic tower, huge portico (complete with vintage Benz) and sprawling room after room.  It’s in Brighton Ontario and if you drive along highway 2 you’ll see it with its white tower poking above the trees.

The couple that lives there has an antique shop set up in the old coach house and when I said I’d live there in a second, one owner said, “You wanna buy it?”.  Trust me, Sara practially had to drag me out of there!  But I guess that would be a long commute into Toronto wouldn’t it?

For those who don’t know, Gray Gardens is the old Beale house (relatives of Jackie O) that was made famous in the 70’s through a documentary.  The Beales had fallen on hard times and the whole faded grandeur romance of it all has capture the imaginations of style-junkies like me.   Here are a couple of pictures to show you what I mean but I’ll be posting more on this down the road.

Image via Cote de Texas

Image via Cote de Texas

Image via Cote de Texas

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Jennie’s Party

At the moment, Sara is getting ready to go to a bridal shower for my cousin Jennie.  It’s got a bit of a theme – an homage to Jennie’s style icon – Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  In keeping with the theme the ladies are all dressing Holly Golightly-style and Sara’s got on a black dress, flats and the pearl earrings I just got her for Christmas.

Here’s the apartment from the classic film.  You gotta love that 1960’s mix of Victoriana and Mod.

I thought in honour of Jennie and Ben (the goom to be), I’d whip up a post.  My cousin Jaclyn (Jennie’s older sister) is a chef and party-planner extraordinaire,  so no doubt it will be a fete to remember.  But just so I can get my two cents in, here’s what I’m seeing for a party/ wedding like this…


How about a table scheme like this, inspired by the iconic Tiffany’s box?  This scheme’s a little less sweet than some of the things I’m seeing out there and not so literal.


You’ve probably seen lots of wedding cakes in the shape of a Tiffany box, but how about this little number?  I like that it will appeal to both bride and groom, and mixes that tradition with modernity (like the movie’s apartment).

And if you really want to go authentic, like I know Jennie would, take inspiration from this classic stationery suite for invitations, menu cards and thank you notes.

To the happy couple!

Hope you like the gift Jennie!  The Christmas ornament is for their first Christmas as a married couple – and I guess it kinda looks like a Tiffany’s diamond too!



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So was Santa good to you?

Christmas has come and gone, all of the gifts have been given and received.  Did you get anything special?  Or maybe there was a Snuggie with your name on it under the tree (the 2010 version of a lump of coal).

I was lucky enough to get some things that I really loved on Christmas morning and they’re the kind of things I can really use.  I always liked that time just after Christmas morning when you’d take your gifts upstairs to your room and just play with their shiny new-ness.  So in that same spirit, let me show you some of the fun things I got this year!

First up, this graphic zig-zag printed plate.  I know for a fact that these little babies are on sale at West Elm and cost under $5.  They’re great on a coffee table like this or used in an entrance to catch keys, or even for serving a special hor d’oeuvre.

I also scored a couple of really lovely, understated ceramic bowls.  I’d been complaining to my wife Sara that I never have enough bowls when I need them.  They’re great for fruit or just sitting empty as decorative objects on a mantle piece or table.  I also love a simple shallow white bowl to float a single fresh blossom in, like a peony or garden rose.

Now this one’s a classic – my mother in law got me this black lacquered tray (also from West Elm and also on sale!).  It’s a decorator’s best friend and I know I’ll use it in so many places over the years.  It goes with every decorating scheme and adds a little polish and sophistication to every room.  You’ve got to get one of these!

Finally, this great gift from Sara.  First there is a great old-school notebook because I’m always jotting down my hare brained ideas.  Also there’s a great sketch book for even more ideas plus some artists’ markers which I love.  The finishing touch is the little button that reads ‘St. Clair’ for the subway station near our first apartment as a married couple.  It’s a great memento.

And that’s my haul!  Well I also got lots of other things (socks, toothpaste and so on…) but that stuff wasn’t decor-related or very photogenic.

So I guess it’s a little late, but Merry Christmas!

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In 1996 at the tender age of 14, I bought my first copy of Martha Stewart Living.  I was on vacation in Florida with my family and I convinced my mom to pick one up for me at the local Home Depot.

That was it.  I was hooked.  I began looking up to, and aspiring to be like all that Martha Stewart Living stood for.  I couldn’t get enough of the lush images, creative ideas, and magical atmosphere that magazine produced.

I’m still a loyal subscriber and I’ve got a bookcase stacked high with MSL issues dating all the way back to that formative issue in ’96.  And you know what?  They are still some of the best issues with the best material, bar none.  Of course I’ve branched out to many more shelter titles since I was 14, but there is just something about classic Martha.

And so, I’ve decided to mine those precious volumes for their timeless treasures and muse about them here.  Classic Martha will now be a regular conversation on Michael Penney Style and I’m starting today with the issue that started it all – Martha Stewart Living, June/July 1996.

Created by Eric A. Pike; Photo by Anita Calero; MSL June/July 1996

This is a scan of the actual cover I bought fifteen years ago.  You can see it’s been read over and over.  I never actually made these melon ‘pops’, but I drooled over the palette of sherbety oranges, pinks and cool green.  Yum!

Created by Claudia Bruno and Margaret Roach; Photo by Christopher Baker; MSL June/July 1996

A story all about the wonder and mystery of shade gardens had me spellbound.  I can just imagine my feet sinking into this carpet of moss with little tufts of ferns popping through next to a stream.

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Margaret Roach’s story on hollyhocks is still so gorgeous today.  The peachy apricot ruffles of this old-fashioned perennials’ blooms are so full and romantic and I especially love the dark black variety with it’s tall spires.  I planted hollyhocks in my own garden that summer fifteen years ago at my parents’ and again this past summer at my place.  They’re a timeless cottage garden staple.

Created by Fritz Karch; Photo by Victor Schrager; MSL June/July 1996

And finally the perfect place to finish – Jadite.  What could be more Martha Stewart than Jadite – that iconic mid-century workhorse with its cheery green hue?  Martha introduced me to Jadite that summer with this story on refrigeratorware – a practical predecessor to today’s ‘Gladware’ (which I sometimes loathe).  I’d much rather open a cupboard full of Jadite food containers than a jumble of those thin plastic ones of today.

Well there you have it – my 1996 introduction to the beautiful world of ‘Living’ and the start of a new blog conversation that will generate many ‘good things‘ I’m sure.

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