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.


photo 5photo 1photo 3photo 1-2photo 1-1photo 2-3photo

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


So long Suzani, it’s all about Shibori.

We all need a little pattern in our lives and when the urge strikes we tend to reach out for textiles made in exotic places.  A hit of lovely embroidered fabric adds depth, character and a whiff of travel to a room that is full of life.  For years it’s been Ikat from Indonesia or Suzani from Persia and as stunning as they are, there is a new kid on the block called Shibori from Japan.  This traditional tie-dying technique is most often done with watery indigo blue dye on white fabric so that the play of light and dark works very well together.  Interestingly, there is a also a bit of an African influence here which I think is wonderful.  Both West Elm and Anthropologie have picked up the trend saving us all from home tie-dying disasters- ahem-I mean adventures.  Anyway, enjoy and let me know what you think!

HeartwareRemodelistaVenice BeachAnthropologieIndigo and Snow on EtsyWest ElmIFPhoto credits: 1. Heartwear photo by Marie Taillefer, 2. Pillows by Rebecca Atwood, 3. Anthropologie, 4. SF General Store in Venice Beach, Remodelista.com, 5. Indigo and Snow on Etsy,  6. West Elm, 7. Heartware at Merci in Paris, Trendtablet.com


Trend Spotting: Distressed Walls

In part three of my Trend Spotting series I’m looking at a type of wall treatment that I’ve seen pop up all over the place, from hip magazine like Living Etc to the showroom at ABC Carpet and Home in NYC.  Essentially, what I’m calling “distressed walls” are rough surfaces (brick, plaster) with chipped or layered paint that create a gorgeous patina.  Some walls even look like artwork themselves.  While wallpaper has had a major heyday in the last few years, things are shifting to a much less polished look- in some circles anyway.  Think New York loft…actually, make that Brooklyn loft.  Or a Parisian atelier touched by time but not by progress.  Imagine a big open space with drafty windows and a rickety freight elevator complete with metal cage that you have to pull down by hand.  Imagine cement floors and sparse bohemian furniture that could either cost a fortune (Anthropology) OR cost nothing (curb-side find).  And imagine stacks of books, frayed rugs, linen everything, and mismatched kitchen dishes.  Get the picture?  The beauty of this look is that furniture really pops.  Here are a few great pics to give you an idea:

Leslie Dilcock

Living EtcLeslie Dilcock 2Sofa Workshop 5
Sofa Workshop 3Tom Leighton 2Tom Leighton 3
IMG_2083IMG_2089Photo credits: 1. Leslie Dilcock; 2. Living Etc; 3. Leslie Dilcock; 4 and 5. Sofa Workshop; 6 and 7.Tom Leighton; 8 and 9. My own from the ABC Carpet and Home showroom.


Ding, Dong Decorating with Bell Jars

Sorry Sylvia, I’m decorating ….

I’ve been slightly obsessed with bell jars (also known as “cloche”) this week after searching high and low for the perfect ones for an upcoming project.  At this point, I can call myself an expert on where to find them in Toronto, where to get the best deals and what sizes are available.  While not new (glass cloches were first popular in Victorian decorating), bell jars are right at the cusp of being a major decorating trend and I predict that we will see them a lot more in the months to come.  I know a trend is coming when I see something being used as propping in a major high-end furniture store (Roche Bobois in Paris, par example), styled in the better decor magazines and turning up in the trendier stores with limited release.  They are a simple, cute decorating item that has unlimited potential for creating mini vignettes on bookshelves, mantles, consoles, dining tables etc etc etc.  So, in the spirit of DIY I decided to style two of my favorite finds in as many ways as I could think of to give you some ideas on incorporating bells into your home.  Of course with the holiday season on it’s way like a freight train, I couldn’t resist doing a few with a festive feel. The real goal here is to get creative and use bells to showcase some of your favourite things.

See below for sources and tips.





DSC_7487Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Make sure you have at least one tall thing in each vignette because you want to fill the vertical space.  To add height, try layering something on the bottom like a small cake plate or a nice looking box.

2. Have a good variety of sizes and shapes in each vignette but stick to a theme to keep it all tied together.

3. Group bells of different sizes together for big impact.

4. Don’t be afraid to let the bell’s contents “spill” out on to the surface outside.  It’s nice to see one ornament on the table as an accessory.

5. Little plants and orchids DO thrive in bells and look fantastic.


Small bell: Urban Outfitters $44, medium bell: Morba $99, large bell: wholesale (sorry).

I had many of the items around my house but I did buy the christmas decorations from:

Ornaments: Homesense, nutcracker: Hudson’s Bay, white houses: Urban Barn.

As an added treat, here is how West Elm is doing them (and FYI: you could totally do this yourself):

West Elm

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.

Cottage Decorating: 12 great finds for under $50

As a long-time cottager just returned from a glorious Victoria Day long weekend, my thoughts are on easy summer decorating tips to spruce up your home-away-from-home.  I’ve been traveling to Kennisis Lake in the Kawarthas since I was a kid- my Dad having the brilliant prescience to buy land way before it was fashionable- and I’ve been part of the constant renovations that transformed a tiny A frame to a spacious retreat for a large family.  Decorating up north was always done on the cheap: old couches from home, hand-sewn curtains, hand-me-down dishes (some chipped), mis-matched sheets and the odd nic-nack that didn’t belong in the city (remember the crocheted owl?).  While I don’t recommend turning your place into a jumbled-up junk collection, I don’t think that spending a lot of money is necessary.  The look should be casual, kid/sand proof and easy to maintain with a few stylish touches to make it feel up-to-date.  In the spirit of summer (yay!) I did a little scout of my local Homesense stores to suggest a few great finds that won’t break the bank.

Here is a handy bottle tote that is as practical as it is stylish.  It’s casual and rustic and perfect for the dock, the table or a pic nic, $19.99.

Homesense does a terrific job with lanterns.  This is just one of the many, many great options.  I like this one because it’s woodsy, has a great handle and looks modern (and tropical in the right setting). $28.99

These platters are great for big BBQs. The colour is perfect for summer and the design is modern. $49.99

I love these twiggy director’s chairs. They come in two colours (avocado as seen and navy)  and have a matching table (behind). Chair $49.99

I would love to see this glass lamp with woven shade in a beachy living room with a big white couch and sisal rug.  $49.99

These carpets are indoor/outdoor and are perfect for sandy feet.  The best part? If they look less-than-fresh come September, don’t feel bad about replacing for next season! $19.99

Are you sensing a theme?  This mirror has a faux-wood frame that is perfect for a guest bedroom or foyer.  $29.99

Every cottager knows that good beach towels are a major must-have.  These ones are super plush in amazing colours. $16.99

I love this substantial planter that wouldn’t even dream of blowing over in the wind.  $49.99

I use baskets for everything from magazines to throw blankets to firewood.  I really like the worn grey-beige colour of this one. $19.99

Stylish coolers are another necessity.  I love the fresh turquoise with silver trim and great price point. Just add ice and your favorite drinks! $12.99

I like this little jug because of it’s African-craft look and pretty colour.  I think this would be perfect as a bit of cottage decoration on a book shelf or table. $19.99

Have fun decorating and remember that the purpose of escaping to the cottage is to relax and take it down a notch.  Shop for stylish items that will last and won’t cause stress when that Visa bill comes in the mail!