Archive for January, 2012

If you’ve been reading House & Home Magazine for the last year or so, you know the editor’s have a huge crush on Canadian-born Colette van den Thillart.  She’s a rising star in the international design scene, having worked with London society decorator, Nicki Haslam.  Well it seems that Colette has made a move back across the pond and has had her home published (not in House & Home, although her cottage and London home have been in H&H) in Traditional Home Magazine.  Shot by my friend, Virginia MacDonald (Yay Virginia!!), this house is breath-taking!  Check it out and maybe sing O Canada in your head as you beam with pride.  I know I will!

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald

Design by Colette van den Thillart; Photography by Virginia MacDonald


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Paper Whites Progress

Look how well my paper whites are doing!!  They’re certainly brightening our window sill and harkening spring in the middle of the sleet and snow.  It’s so easy – you just plant ’em and water ’em and watch them grow!  They bring a smile to my face each day and they smell wonderful.  They look great en mass like this, but I also like to cart individual pots and saucers around to different areas of the house like a writing desk, kitchen counter or powder room.  You should try growing your own paper whites for sure!



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Dramatic Dining Room

Here’s one to knock your socks off!  A dramatic dining room with deep purple doors, de gurnay wallpaper and klismos dining chairs.  Wowie-zowie!


Other good ideas:  painted/upholstered chairs paired with a traditional wood table, a bleached wood sideboard topped with a pair of urns with big scale, and a curvy, unusual mirror to add polish and intrigue.  And if this isn’t a point for wallpaper and lacquered wood work, I don’t know what is!

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Sometimes roses are just so…done.  But grouped en masse in a single colour without any fern or baby’s breath, they’re wonderfully lovely and pure.  Here, I worked with some ivory roses and a blue and white vase I picked up at Value Village.  A match made in heaven if you ask me.

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Always fresh.  Always inspiring.  The quirky colour combinations and trend-setting styles of J. Crew continue to make me crazy for colour and mixing and matching!


I’m pretty sure I have one roll of wallpaper a lot like that skirt fabric.  Maybe a denim blue painted ceiling would be a good pairing?  With a touch of pinky-peachy-coral?  Yummmmm…


Tan + grey + nautical stripes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Good for a spring 2012 outfit for one friendly neighbourhood decorator AND good for a room with a grey sofa, tan slipcovered arm chair and black/white striped walls.  Skinny horizontal stripes maybe?


A rainbow of SPERRY topsiders?  Just. so. fun.

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Something refreshing and inspiring to think about on a cold Tuesday morning…


As a bit of an anglophile, I appreciate a good bit of Blue Willow china, Corronation Street (bah, I know!) and Ben Pentreath.  His shop and blog are more than inspiring.  Here’s what he posted recently that had me, ‘ah-ha-ing’ and itching to share with you…

From Ben Pentreath:

“I’m not a great one for New Year’s resolutions. But I would like to start this New Year with a story.

Many years ago, when I lived in the States, but was beginning to feel… well, homesick… and I was deeply, deeply uncertain as to what to do next. The sort of uncertainly where your whole life feels like it is crumbling. A kind, wonderful client of mine took me out for lunch.

“IF, just if, you were going to win the lottery—how much would you need to win in order never to work again?” she asked.

It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? For a start, it implies that one actually buys a lottery ticket, which I think I’ve done twice in my life. And then, the small matter that we don’t like to talk about money, do we; and then… the flat in London, the house in the country, the place in Italy, the apartment in New York, the pied-a-terre in Paris (anywhere else?); the running costs, the cost of living, enough to make a donation or three; hmm. Well, I won’t embarrass everyone by mentioning details, but my choice was probably north of $10 million. Right?   A few years later I was amused and chastised when a 22 year old intern in my office demanded (in answer to the same question) £27 million.  Cool.

The point is, its a question that needs a bit of serious thought, isn’t it?

“And, let us just imagine”, she continued, “that I am your fairy godmother and on Saturday you are going to win $xx,000,000″.  She was so convincing, I almost believed it.  Fun!!!

“And, let us just assume”, she carried on, “that you spend time buying the perfect house in the country, and your flat in London, and your New York pad and Paris pied-a-terre. The bricks and mortar are all sorted…

…Then what do you do next?”

Before you read on, you may want to answer that question yourself.

Weirdly, this time, it needed no thought at all. The answer just flowed. “I would move back to England”, I said. “I would set up a small architecture practice in London, with a bit of interior decoration, maybe open a little shop. Have a lot of fun working on interesting projects with nice people and, well, seeing if I can make the world a better place in very small ways one stage at a time”.

The trick, of course, is that whatever you answer to Ann’s brilliant question is what you should be trying to do in your life.

So, on New Year’s Eve, in the middle of a great and hectic party down here in the village, I found myself chatting to a fantastic man who we will call John, the stepfather of my host. Three months ago, aged 58, he had been made redundant from a small firm of specialist stainless steel engineers. I guess a story we are all coming across. Too early to retire, or to collect the pension, he was frankly fearful of (or at best resigned to) the year ahead. It was time to ask him Ann’s question. “I wouldn’t need much, honestly. £100K would be excessive”.

And what would you do…?

His face lit up. “When I was sixteen, I worked for a few years for a traditional wrought iron blacksmith. I would love to do that again. It was such a passion of mine.  I could have a small workshop at the back of the garden… I wouldn’t need a lot of kit… that really is something I could make a living from”.

I think that was the answer. I told him this tale. And John could not, I mean, could not, stop grinning.

Resolutions come and go, mainly go (I saw my brother today, whose giving up alcohol for January had lasted for… a mere 8 hours. Well done Jonny!).  But the important question is this? Are we reaching the best of our potential?  A good question, I sometimes wonder, to think about on the 1st January.

I did so yesterday while I worked—for the first time in ages—in the garden. Green shoots are appearing everywhere. Spring is around the corner.

Happy New Year. And enough of the self help lecture already – I hope you woke up with a crap hangover.”

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I just finished reading one of my new books – Ralph Lauren – by Ralph Lauren and it was one inspiring read!  The images are stunning and reading about Ralph Lauren’s inspiring career in his own words is wonderful.  Ralph Lauren has made a career on iconic images of the American lifestyle, covering everything from the rustic to the refined.  One example is one of Ralph Lauren Home’s latest collections, called ‘One Fifth‘.

One Fifth is a bold and dramatic high-style look made up of piano lacquer finishes and gilded details.  I especially love the high gloss black trim and doors in this image.



Notice how the clean white walls, sparkly lighting and crisp photography keep all of the black and gold from being too heavy and decadent.  I love that chevron cushion too.


Now I may not have access to this type of Ralph Lauren style, but I did see this vintage sideboard at my favourite Belleville shop a while ago…could work right?



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