Archive for March, 2012

Shop Update!

And the verdict is in…Arsenic it is!  Wanna know what sealed the deal?  I saw a chip in the paint in the old billiards hall and realized the walls had been painted this very same colour back in the day!  What are the chances?!

Also our friends James and Samantha came by to help sand the old floors.  They’re never going to be perfect gleaming floors, but they have a certain rustic charm and patina.  It’s starting to get there!


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I’ve got another packed day of preparations ahead of me, but I wanted to share some eye-candy with you nevertheless!  Steven Gambrel continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration for me and this new project from his portfolio doesn’t disappoint.  His spaces may be a little more grand than anything I’d ever hope to do, but there are so many beautiful choices, so many delicious details that I go back for more and more.  As I piece together the shop and my first mix of objects to offer, these carefully curated Gambrel rooms keep me inspired.

Baskets will never be tired for me, and this one’s a beaut.  I also love the black legs of this harvest table and what looks like a stone top.  Great idea!  You could skip the stone and paint the top white too.

A gorgeous cozy nook with three things I’m a sucker for:  bottle lamp, kraft paper or parchment shade, topiaries.  Yes, yes and yes!


I love this wooden cabinet (no, not painted!) and it gives me hope for the one in my shop!

This is a lovely living area and I especially like the unusual coffee table and the grouping of vintage paintings above the sofa.  The colour of the door and how it’s painted a colour rather than white is also very nice.  Ideas we can all use in our less grand homes, right?

A collection of shadow-boxed miniature ships?  Genius!  And what a landing!

And the perfect restful retreat.  Another good lesson here especially if you don’t have amazing windows – layer them with natural blinds AND full length simple drapes.  Okay back to work for me!!



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Small Space Anyone?

UPDATE: Okay sounds like some people are interested!  If you have a small space with a few areas to decorate (not renovate) please email my blog at michaelpenney8@gmail.com WITH pictures and an idea of the budget you might have.  Thanks so much guys!

I’m just testing the waters here, but I wondered if anyone out there has a small space (apartment or small house) that could use some freshening up?  You’d have to have at least a small budget, but I just might be looking for something…if anyone’s interested…GTA is a must and even closer to Oshawa would be ideal…I dunno, could be a long shot but you never know…

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in their tiny Barefoot in the Park apartment

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DIY Art Pottery

So recently I was asked to restyle the Marilyn Denis set on a budget.  I needed to stretch each dollar and try to bring a bit more freshness and colour to the set for spring.  For colour, I shopped affordable sources like West Elm, HomeSense and Urban Barn (and some DIY art).  For freshness I wanted to add some crisp white by using a lacquered white credenza on the stage, some furry white cushions and some DIY art pottery.

Here’s where the pottery started – Value Village clear vases and ceramic ones too.

And here’s where they ended – on national TV with Diane Keaton no less!

That’s them in the back on the credenza.  The orange lacquered tray is from West Elm and looks great with the vases.  To do this yourself…


1) Visit your local thrift shop and pick a selection of vases (glass and pottery) focusing on shape and scale.  Look for some tall, some squat, and curves are good.

2) Pick up some flat white spray paint.  One can will do 4 or 5 vases.

3) Get spray painting!  I used a clementine wooden crate as a little riser to make it easier to get the spray paint right down to the bottom of each vase.  Working outside is a good idea.

4) Group vases together in a tray, on a book shelf with books or on a mantle.  Enjoy!

Oh and remember the DIY art?  It looks great next to Diane too!

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Work on my little shop continues – not long till it’s done!  I wanted to share with you some more of the artifacts we found in the shop, most from a crevice behind a wall that came down.  As I mentioned, the shop was a billiards hall for years and years so these items make sense given it’s history.  Take a look – they’re a thrilling glimpse into the past!


Here are a pair of old chalk cubes for the pool cues.  Apparently, they’re the world’s best!

Smoking was a given and these pipes were probably typical for a pool hall scene.  They’re so cool!

If a pipe’s not your thing, how about these Player’s cigarettes?  Still in the box!!  And some chalk for…

The original slates on the wall for keeping score!

There was a collection of old mail and even a price list for billiards-related products.  I love the swatch of pool table green felt on its sample card.

Looks like lots of ice cold refreshments were consumed.  Pool is hard work I guess!  Mostly Coca Cola and Savoy Orange (?) it looks like…

And the best for last…this old fund raising poster I found on the first day.  Isn’t it amazing?  Raising money for the Red Cross all those years ago, I can see it now…


Well, it’s back to work, I’ve got product to order!  And a very special thank you to those of you who popped in over the weekend!  It was great to meet you and I hope you’ll come back soon!  For anyone else who is curious, feel free to drop in!

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Store Front Colour

Well I haven’t started painting it yet, but I’d say my store front could use some fresh colour couldn’t you?


Well the trick will be to choose something that’s classic but eye-catching, fresh but not too bright and definitely signature Michael Penney, right?  I’ve thought of plain white (fresh, clean, simple) but think it will just wash out.  Maybe if there was nice rich brick above, but alas there is not.  I’ve thought of all black (classic, traditional, refined, dressy) but think, been there, done that.  You know me, I love colour and so I think it’s gotta be something a little more innovative than black or white!  And for colour, I often look to the historical yet impact-full shades from Farrow & Ball.  I’m thinking of going with one of my all time favourites – Arsenic!


It’s that great combo of something historical and yet oh so charming on a store front (and definitely eye grabbing, don’t you think?).  Like Purl Soho in New York (although my arsenic will be a little less minty).

For me, this is pure charm and I’m willing to take the risk.  No guts, no glory!  Here’s Arsenic from in some other great applications, just to make you love it more!








Well, what do you think?  Am I nuts?  


Happy Weekend everyone!




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Step Inside My Store!

I’ve had a dream of opening a little shop in my hometown of Whitby for years.  Growing up in a cookie-cutter style builder’s house (our next door neighbour’s house was a twin of ours, just reversed) I was especially entranced by the romance and history of the old buildings downtown.  The location that I now am turning into my store was always closed, windows papered, and not for rent my entire life.  I now know, it’s been closed since 1972!

The story goes like this:  The former owner was friends with Conn Smythe, who built Maple Leaf Gardens so the shop was called Maple Leaf Billiards.  It was the local pool hall for years and years but closed down when the owner retired in 1972.  And that’s just how it’s stayed for 40 years!  Now, I’m busting out a whole lot of elbow grease and freshening things up.  I can’t wait to show you the transformation!

My brother and I got to work moving an old glass display case and look what we found beneath!  Old food wrappers and stickers from cigars and cigarette packages from the old billiards hall.  I especially love that Lowney’s chocolate bar wrapper.

And some great old, grimy coins.  I’ve never seen one without Queen Elizabeth!  King George?  That’s an oldie!

Lastly, these great old lights in the windows.  They have that great mercury glass finish on the inside and a sort of old zinc finish on the exterior.  They’re original and I just love them!  It’s so great to have found a space that hasn’t been altered in so many years so that so much of the charm is still in tact.  Now I’ve just gotta get it pulled together for the store to open – and fast!

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