A New Design Gem Opens in Leslieville

It’s not everyday that a new design boutique opens within steps of my front door and so I can’t help but get very excited, especially for something that is so fabulous that it reminds me of New York a little bit- which is really something to shout about don’t you think?   And what am I so giddy about?  The opening of Black Rooster Decor‘s first bricks and mortar store on Queen Street East, a few blocks east of Carlaw.  Until recently, most would agree that this side of Queen Street lacked luster until an influx of condos and a reno-boom improved everything.  Now, we Leslievillers get to enjoy the fruits of all the change: great stores are coming too.  Hallelujah.

Black Rooster Decor already has a very successful online business so the new store is a natural move.  Their strength is providing great design to clients who are looking for a well curated collection of items ranging from mid-century modern to European antiques.  While most of their business is currently across the border, they are dedicated to like-minded Canadian suppliers and designers.  They also have a personal shopping service which is fabulous for those who need a little inspiration.  See below for my interview with owner Nina Ber-Donkor.


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How would you describe the over-all style of the store? A mix of what we sell online with some local items thrown-in to make it special for our Toronto clients.

What makes you unique? We’re really lucky to have some local designers and clients in Toronto that have supported us, so we’re coming in with a perspective of what they like and want to see in-store.

Why Leslieville? It’s our favourite hood and close to home. 

What new products are you most excited about? Discovering new artisans that are making affordable and unique everyday home goods. It’s thrilling to offer something not found at the chain stores, something you won’t see in every home.

Where do you find your treasures? Are you off on buying trips all the
time? Not as often as I would like to… many of our purchases are made from visiting with our suppliers, seeing their new product lines, going to trade shows and sometimes blind trust in a product we’ve never seen but can tell will be awesome based on past experiences. 

What magazines are your go-to’s for inspiration? Domaine, Rue, Lonny. They’re killing it right now. And Instagram is a major source of inspiration. 

Why expand from a successful online business to bricks and mortar 
(when many retailers are doing the exact opposite at the moment)? It’s not an expansion but rather an extention of what we do. No one would question us opening a storage warehouse so a retail store is just as important for our business where customers can come in and chat and look and feel and get inspiration. And it’s really nice to actually talk to people and not sit behind a computer all day. 

Where can you be found? Instagram, Twitter, Website


Best Decor Stores in Montreal

Going to Montreal and wondering where to shop?  Let me help you.  Typically, Montreal is very well known for trendy clothing boutiques and amazing restaurants but it is also chock-full of fabulous home decor destinations that are both inspiring and unique.  On a recent trip I scoured the city for the best-of-the-best in order to bring you this mini shopping guide to use on your next visit.  There is lots here so get ready to have a bit of fun, grab a bagel along the way and pick up a few words en francais.

Zone Maison

4246 rue St Denis  http://www.zonemaison.com/

Absolutely brimming with modern decor finds this store is the mothership of Montreal style. The accessories are fantastic, the furniture pieces affordable and the store itself is bright, airy and full of possibilities.  You will find a million things that you want to take home so for that reason, it’s a must see.

Zone 8Zone 4Zone 9Zone 5

Style Labo

5765 Boulevard Saint-Laurent  http://www.stylelabo.com

This store is a more of a concept-space than a livable environment BUT you will find cool pieces that add personality to your home.  It’s part antique market, part junk-shop, part  trendy downtown workshop.  I imagine adding any number of these things to a modern space to jack up the creative content and provoke conversation starters for dinner parties. LOVE the illuminated letters!


SL3SL5Maison Corbeil

1215 Boulevard Cremazie Ouest http://www.maisoncorbeil.com

This is the biggest and most furniture-oriented store that I visited.  Maison Corbeil carries the big lines like Ligne Roset and Cattelan but also offers a variety of less-expensive choices that are fantastic.  It has a warm yet minimal feel and covers all the bases.

MC 2MC 7MC 4MC 8

V de V

5042 Boulevard Saint-Laurent http://www.vdevmaison.com/

This store is a cosy little boutique full of warm and friendly Quebecois things.  Or maybe that’s just because I visited in mid-November and they were all decorated for the holidays.  Either way, it’s a fun treat to visit and you’ll find lots to see.  Cabin-chic at it’s best.



Lambert et Fils Luminaires

156 Rue Beaubien Est. http://www.lambertetfils.com/

I don’t know about you, but I can get very bored of seeing the same lighting fixtures over and over again.  Which is why I am soooooo excited about finding this amazing small custom shop that makes everything on-site.  The lights are modern, elegant, simple and (best of all) unique.  They aren’t cheap, but they aren’t break-the-bank crazy either.   Love, love, love this place.

LF 11LF 5LF 4LF 3LF 2

LF 7

That’s all for my adventures and I’m sure there are many, many more.  Please write to me with other ideas and I will check them out on my next go-round.  What a fantastic, fantastic city.  Au revoir mes amis!

Indigo Fall Preview

A big part of my job is to keep current and to know what trends are going to be hot before everyone else does. Luckily, most of my favorite retailers hold seasonal presentations of their newest  collections several months before they hit the stores.  It’s sort of like when fashion designers launch their collections by doing runway shows; in home decor they do “previews” in which artfully designed vignettes are styled in a showroom for guests to admire.  A ton of work goes into these presentations because the audience is full of key people who will help move the brand along.  For a stylist, it’s a great opportunity to stock up on ideas as well as a nice time to say hello to some long-lost friends who I haven’t seen for a while.  This morning’s event held by Indigo was a bit of both and I am super glad that I went.  Below you will find images of my favorite items that should be hitting stores in time for fall.  I find that Indigo always does a great job and that the products are of shockingly good quality for the pricepoint (and no, they did not pay me to say that).

Here is a gorgeous wall of mix and match dinnerware with smooth shapes, a rustic feel and dark, inky colours that are great for fall.

IMG_0768 I loved the new line of napkins that look as if they have been hand-dyed with natural pigments.  They are meant to look a bit rumpled so no ironing required!  I think I might snap up the lush purple ones for myself come fall.IMG_0769 Who wouldn’t want a mug that says something sweet every morning?IMG_0773Chic desk accessories can be hard to find, believe you me.  Poppin is a new line from New York that will be sold exclusively in Canada at Indigo.  I like the white the best but there are also tons of peppy hues.IMG_0777 A book after my own heart (and start in the theatre oh-so-many years ago).  IMG_0781 I loved how they table-scaped this coffee table with heavy, sexy books.  Oh and the luscious roses didn’t hurt either.  Take note all you bare table people!IMG_0784 Indigo is putting a push on integrating the world of books and words into it’s home decor category.  I think it’s a clever blending and makes the home products seem so…well… at home. Love these little framed sayings (which also come on toss pillows and will be top sellers).IMG_0785 And of course, the wall of scarves, jewelery and handbags.  I have made a bee line for this stuff several times this year when a last minute gift was required.  First stop, scarf and notebook; second stop gift wrap and cards; third stop, done!IMG_0759 Okay so now some time for personal shopping: these lavender pillows are going to look great on my sofa!!  

I thought these glass decanters with gold tops were so simple and elegant.
IMG_0770 Last but not least, the wooden kitchen accessories are just a gorgeous as ever.  I love the cutting and cheese boards the best!IMG_0771Well that’s my tour for now…I’m sure that you will see all of these things on your own in the next few months but isn’t it nice to get a little sneak peak?

Marcel Wanders: Design Poet

I had the incredible honour of meeting international design superstar Marcel Wanders last week at an event held at Klaus in Toronto.  The party was fantastic, but more importantly I got inspired to find out more about what makes him tick and dive into as many images as Google will provide (countless, it turns out).  While I already knew about his work with Mooi and loved his imaginative style, there is so much more to admire than I ever knew.  photo

Wanders places a great emphasis on communicating whimsy, magic, daydreams and wonder (in fact, his twitter handle is @wanderswonders).  His designs are like Alice in Wonderland does Elle Decor with exagerated propotrion, pop-out textures and enchanted  motifs.   He creates everything from high-end hotels to private residences to table-top to furniture and accessories.

Here are my top 10 stunning images of Wanders’ interior design work.

The first one is from the glittering lobby of the Andaz Hotel in Amsterdam; a magical constellation that connects travelers to the heavens above.

Skylight with Bells

The bell theme continues in the Mondrian Hotel in South Beach.  Wanders thinks of bells as the original vehicle for mass-communiction.

Mondrian Dining

Also from the Mondrian, this gorgeous poolside is incredible:

Monrian outdoor

Wanders designed this private Mallorca residence in mostly circular lines, including this sofa (by Poliform). This was his first full residential project and he calls it “unavoidably exuberant and unabashedly outrageous”.  There is a real tension between the modern elements and classic hits like the little black table with antique-style legs.

Red Couch

This is the outdoor courtyard at the Kameha Grand Bonn hotel.  The giant gold pots and cross-word puzzle looking tile pattern visually fill the wide space without restricting it.


Also from the Kameha Grand, this lobby shot is to die for.  Again, the bell theme comes back but this time we get disco balls, a killer black ceiling and oversized decorated pillars.

Hotel Lobby

A bathroom shot from the same hotel.  I love how the gold tile wraps down on to the floor:Bathroom

Shifting to another private residence In Amsterdam, this not-so-huge space required a dedication to organization that is typical of Netherland style.  Despite the desire for streamlined minimalism, every inch of it still sings a wild tune.  Note the decorative ceiling, wallpaper, floor, furniture, partition…etc etc. This works well because amongst all the texture there are also simple surfaces (couch, table, pendant) to give the eye a break.

Room 1

This powder-room has a glass door. I’m not sure I would want to hide that tile either….

Room 4

A door detail with Wanders’ signature logo.



For more inspiration watch this little video:

IDS 2013

Today was Trade Day at the Interior Design Show and I thought I would take a few pictures  of my favorite booths to watch out for.  Whether you’re planning to attend this weekend or want to experience the best in show from home here are five of my faves:

1. Cocoon

I loved this booth.  It was glam, elegant, chic and so, so perfect in every way.  Lots of people ask me to describe my personal style and I would say this design is pretty darn close. Can’t you just picture me moving in?


A great example of bookcase decorating!
IMG_0097I love the proportions here: classical and symmetrical with a little bit of messiness.  I like that the stools don’t match and the books are plain white and gold. So pretty.


Oh and guess what? That’s a rug back there! What a nice way to add texture and warmth.
IMG_0100Decorating with fruit and flowers is the easiest and most cost friendly way to refresh a room.  Make sure to pick colours that match your decor.IMG_0099

A giant mirror is stunning in this vignette:  I like that it’s off centre and on the floor.IMG_0101I never liked orange as a wall colour that much…until today.  IMG_01022. Ikea

This booth is always a major showstopper and this year was no exception.  People were talking about this non-Ikea copper bathtub… too bad it’s not available at your local store.  Enjoy it here as a luxurious rustic retreat fantasy- filled with floating orchids no less!

IMG_0109 Ohhhhh the drama.  Have a tall ceiling?   Like a really, really tall ceiling? Add some potted trees to your kitchen counter and a huge grouping of pendants.  Okay…I guess this is just an inspiring concept but what an impact!

IMG_0110I always love the styling of the Ikea booth.  In the past, master prop-stylist Neil Asselin designed the booth from top to bottom and I don’t know whether or not his team did it this year BUT I have a feeling that he did.  His magic fingerprints are all over this.


3. Montauk

The makers of everybody’s dream sofa pulled off a very cool booth this year.  All of those papers are photos of Montauk’s gorgeous pieces.  And P.S. have you seen their catalogue? So nice.


4. Binss Kitchen and Bath Design

This was hands-down the best kitchen concept at the show.  I loved the finishes, and the sleek styling.  Check out this huge range hood:

IMG_0125They also did a fantastic built-in shelving unit.  Yes, everything needs to be perfect all the time and no, ugly dishes are not allowed.

IMG_0126IMG_0127IMG_01295. Earth Inc

My friends at Earth Inc are always one of the best.  They mount tranquil garden rooms for IDS that are created with such ingenuity.   This concept space showcased a modern romantic notion of what outdoor living can be.  It’s hard to capture the feeling in a photograph…imagine the sounds of a water feature and smell of beautiful green things.

IMG_0121IMG_0123That’s all for now and I hope you enjoyed my mini tour.  I’d love to hear from you so let me know what your favorites were!

6 Questions for Colin Cowie

Today I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Colin Cowie, lifestyle expert and party planner for celebrities like Oprah, Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian. Colin hosted an intimate holiday event at The Thompson Hotel to celebrate the season and show off new home fragrance products from Proctor and Gamble.

I found Colin to be exactly as I expected: gentlemanly, generous and brimming with helpful ideas and quotable thoughts.  We sat down over coctails and I asked him a few keys questions:

SS: What are the holiday themes that you are seeing for 2012?

CC: I love mixed metallics, sparkle, tangerine & cognac and lime green for the season. And for food, there has been a major trend towards truffle oil and truffles on everything!  That’s over now.  This year, it’s all about kale, which can be used in many different ways to make it good.  In music, I believe that making a good playlist is key and that you must do so by using your own favorite list and adding 15% holiday favorites to make it the ultimate playlist.

SS: You are famous for your wedding planning.  Have you done any holiday-themed weddings?  Do people want to include holiday themes when they get married at this time of year?

CC: I recently did a wedding at a mountain resort in Vail, Colorado and I did the attendants in ecru and the bride wore cranberry.  She came in on a cranberry sled and it was wonderful.  I always say that there are no rules except good taste should prevail.

SS: How do you feel about hand-written invitations or thank-you notes versus Evites and texts?

CC: You get 10 points for a handwritten thank-you note the day after, 8 points for a text right away and 6 points for a note two weeks later.  Ever since the market turned down people are more careful but are still getting married: there are 55 thousand weddings every weekend of the year in the US. Weddings are recession resistant but budgets have gotten smaller.  Paperless post is a trend that means people can spend less on invitations and still afford to serve lamb (for example) and focus on what is important.

SS: What is an ideal hostess/host gift?

CC: Anything that people can use like wine, champagne, a good playlist.  Flowers don’t work because you force the hostess to find a vase and trim the stems which she doesn’t have time for.  Flowers must be sent the day before or the day after.  Fragrant candles are wonderful.  I have a stocked gift closet with pre-wrapped items with cards all ready to go.  I buy things when they are on sale and use them all year round.

SS: People tend to stock-pile Christmas decorations and fill up their garages and attics.  What should people purge?

CC: Great style means ruthless editing.  If you haven’t used something for 18 months, I believe in getting rid of it.  Right now there are 40 thousand hurricane victims in the US who are in need of new things.  I hope that people will donate those extra items instead of being over-saturated themselves.

SS: Do you have any big events coming up that you can tell us about?

CC: I have a 300 person wedding in Texas coming up that will be very big (with a budget to match!).  And then holidays with my family in South Africa.

What a pleasant way to spend an hour!  A few decorating tips I picked up (but somehow forgot to photograph): 1. use tightly bunched white carnations in reflective vases to add inexpensive yet lovely flowers to the table; 2. Use those same carnations on the tree by grouping three flowers together in a water pick (or floral tube) and pushing the stems in towards the trunk; 3. Colin believes in curating over matching when decorating: “I believe that a savvy entertainer is a resourceful one” (I always say the same thing BTW); 4. don’t use home fragrance in the dining room as guests should enjoy the smell of food not candles;  5. personalize store-bought candles by applying silver or gold leaf to the glass.

Great advice!  Thanks so much to Colin Cowie and to MSL PR for a lovely event.  And by the way, the holiday Febreeze candles are amazing; love the “vanilla & moonlight” scent. Yum.

A Holiday Preview on Christmas Street

While I know that it’s still early for some people, I have been working on Christmas photo-shoots and gift guides for months now and so I am already super-excited about the coming season.  It’s almost as if I’ve skipped over Halloween entirely and am now ready to put up the tree and start sipping cocoa with Baileys.  I guess I’ll have to put the brakes on gently for now but maybe in the meantime you’ll allow me to share some gorgeous holiday ideas that I saw at yesterday’s HBC Christmas Street sneak-peek.  As always, The Bay does an outstanding job with their holiday decorations and it was such a treat to walk-through the extensive Queen Street department with designer Brian Gluckstein and The Bay’s Creative Director of Home Fashions, Arren Williams.
I’ll start with my favorite look: blue/grey and gold (you’ll notice I took more pictures here than anywhere else).   If I could re-do my entire holiday look to match this I totally would.  I think that the key here is a hit of elegant French aesthetic that I can imagine in a very chic Parisian apartment.  The golds are in every patina from tarnished to sparkling and the blues go from soft grey to baby.  It’s an elegant look for an elegant home with a bit of whimsy to keep it light.
The candles are long and tall to add elegance and a touch of antique-styling.  I love all the vases and vintage bowls filled with ornaments.  This can simply be reproduced on a mantle or buffet.
The fancy flocked wallpaper and antiqued mirror are well-balanced by the modern black lampshade and oversize nutcracker.  This is a great vignette.  Again, bowls of ornaments are a simple way to decorate that takes almost no time at all.
I am a total nut for table-top and I loved this setting. It’s modern yet elegant and goes quite well with the stainless flatware (this is a good example of well-mixed metallics).  Also the trio of crystal stemware is a perfect touch.  The table has been left bare to let the marble show.  Gorge!
If I had to pick one favorite thing that I want to bring home it would be this wreath.  It reminds me of a Napoleonic or Roman crown.  And while maybe Napoleon wasn’t such a great guy, the Napoleonic style was sumptuous and regal.
Anyhoo, the next room is a little more casual (but just a little) and based on a creamy palette with hits of light woods and raw brick to ground it.  The decorations are etherial with lots of sparkle and big creamy poinsettas and ribbon everywhere.  There are pretty antiques in this look as well and I love the vintage luggage stacked in front of the carved mantle.
On the more traditional side, the Bay’s crack design team created a tartan-inspired room with a manor house feel called “Highland”. This one is all about layering plaid on plaid with little scottie dogs and wellies on the tree.  There are lots of bears to play with and hefty tarnished gold candle sticks (sorry for the blur but you get the idea).
This old Underwood fits right in with the theme.  It’s masculine and old-world and you can make the kids guess what the heck it is.
Here is Arren Williams showing off his favorite sparkling bird in the “Regency” room.  This one is all about chic black, white and shiny silver.  It’s a new twist that I think will be very popular with the urban set.
Okay, last one: I would call this one Christmas Lodge.  It has a fantastic Canadian style that is in keeping with The Bay’s heritage.  Lots of antlers, birch candles, furs, and faux-greenery abound.
Here is Brian Gluckstein showing off an antler candle-holder.  He was also pleased with the collection of soft-toy decorations that are perfect for kids.
The layering here gives a wonderful feeling of abundance which is so key to Christmas. Don’t be afraid to over-fill the table on the big day.  Your guess will love it and yes, the food will still fit somewhere….
So what is your favorite look?  Do you change it up every year or are you more inclined towards the hand-made and handed down?