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.


New York Window Display

“I want these windows to be perceived as hallucinations”

“You have to do all sorts of things to make a stream of pedestrians into and audience”

David Hoey, Resident Window Display Artist, Bergdorf Goodman

As promised, here are a few of the fantastic window displays that caught my eye in New York.  I am a bit of junkie in this department, and am in awe of those that do it well.  Window displays are little pieces of theatre without the interference of technology that is so common in everything else.  They combine old-fashioned techniques of staging, perspective, characters and design.  I love that good windows are static, yet create life, movement and magic.  They are their own little worlds with the sole purpose of enticing passersby with a quick moment of “wow!”.  They sell products but also delight and entertain in an old-school kinda way.   Anyway, I won’t get too wordy here as this is such a visual medium.  Here are my faves:


Not sure where I saw this one….sadly.  But I really loved those soaring flamingoes and hits of pink:IMG_2005

Also at Bergdorf’s, Chinese New Year theme:IMG_1992Simple, yet super special for Valentine’s Day at Tiffany:

IMG_2013Again, sadly not sure what store but I love the simple lyricism of it.IMG_2009Last but not least, a wacky and wonderful display for Moncler in Soho:

For those who are interested, I want to recommend a film called Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s for a inside look New York’s greatest department store and it’s amazing displays.

And THEN, for the serious enthusiast, check out this website for an incredible archive of windows from the past, Bergdor’s and otherwise.

Trend Rating: My Pics and Pans of the 2013 Design Forecast Part I

Every January the top decor trendsetters roll out their predictions for the most exciting new   design themes that are popping up in houses large and small.  Like in fashion, there are some great ideas that stand the test of time and others that fall flat and don’t appeal to the majority of design savvy shoppers.  (There is also a third category of trends that are uber popular for about a year, and then crash and burn once we’ve all seen them too many times: faux reindeer heads anyone?).

I am going to distill the lists for you here and give you my two cents on the best and worst of them all.

Pantone Colour

First I am going to tackle Pantone’s colour of the year: Emerald 17-5641.  Pantone describes the hue as “Lively. Radiant. Lush. A colour of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony” and I would tend to agree BUT it must absolutely be used sparingly as a “pop” of colour, not as a decorating scheme.    I think that this one might be a fun thing to try…but I don’t see it sticking around for very long.  As with all the Pantone favorites (last year was “Tangerine Tango” and the year before was “Honeysuckle”), Emerald is a very strong colour that you have to absolutely love in order to look at it every day.  And for heaven’s sake please keep it out of the bathroom and bedroom;  there is nothing worse for skin tone than a greenish glow.  I give this one a 6 out of 10.

Here’s how to do it right:

Green Chair Green Curtains Green DoorGreen
Next, my least favorite of all the trends is Lace.  I’m not a fan of it in fashion or in decor because I think it can get really trashy or granny really fast (and after watching 10 minutes of the People’s Choice awards last night, I am almost completely over it: trashy lace-adorned dresses galore).  Elle Decor chose these two images illustrate the trend, one pretty pillow that shows the trend very well, and one very granny bed that I think should go away.  I give this one a 2 out of 10.

Lace 2

Lace 1

Next on the list is a look that I really like -it requires a great deal of courage and joie-de-vivre to pull it off right .  I am talking about a House and Home trend they called “Fearless Mixing”.  This is a wonderful style for those who like a lot of layering, pattern and colour.   With this look, balance is absolutely key because without it, things can go very wrong very fast.   Tips to keep in mind when decorating in this style: mix vintage pieces with new things to create time-period layers, use bold colours that maintain the same intensity (like lime green, aqua and amethyst), use textured rugs, curtains or upholstery to add texture and interest, mix in metallics for shine, ALWAYS use something plain without pattern or texture to maintain balance.  For sheer chutzpah, I give this one 9 out of 10.    

Fearless MixingHere are a few glorious examples from the December 2012 issue of Lonny Magazine featuring the home of designer Michel Van Devender in North Carolina.  She does this so very well…

Feraless Mixing 1Fearless Mixing 4 Fearless Mixing 3 Fearless Mixing 2Stay tuned for part II when I take on “brass”, “outdoors/in, “scandi” and “beige” (yes, it’s a trend- and I’ll explain why).

Hotel Design By Michele Bonan

Today I want to talk about my love for good hotel design and the numerous ideas that we can bring home.  I absolutely love to travel and finding a beautiful hotel that re-invigorates my eye for design is the ultimate treat.  While I haven’t had much opportunity to escape lately, I AM always dreaming of my next destination.  Hotels are a great chance for designers to show their stuff to the world and really infuse a space with beauty and comfort.  For us guests, it’s an opportunity to try-out different design styles to learn what makes us feel rested or ready to entertain.  While I don’t recommend bringing home everything that you love (parrot wallpaper should on the islands please, as should most folk-art and conch shells) I do think there are lots of pretty things that can liven-up the typical Canadian home. This blog post is an exploration of location-specific decorating as I bring you two very different hotels by the same designer.

I discovered the work of famed Italian architect/designer Michele Bonan while looking for the best hotels in Capri.  Bonan’s philosophy is “harmony, coherence and irony are the keys” (I’m not sure what he means by the ‘irony’ part and suspect a mis-translation).  His work is right up my alley as it is a mix of sumptuous fabrics, antiques, tasteful patterns, selective use of colour and a ‘new world meets old world’ sensibility.  His work IS cohesive and has a symmetry that  I adore.  He mixes luxury with practical comfort.

So, without much further ado, please take a little dream vacation with me to two of Bonan’s most famed properties: The JK Place Capri and The Heidelberg Suites. Both are very appropriate mirrors of their surroundings (as your home should be) with hints of the designer’s special eye for style.  I’ll give little hints of “ideas to steal” as we go along.

The stunning facade and view at the JK Place Capri make me dizzy.

I love the use of big blocks of navy with bright-white trim and moldings.  The mirrors exaggerate the architectural details while the dark wood floor and occasional furniture ground everything.  If you can only steal one small thing from this one make it the simple arrangement of while calla lilies.

The wooden trim around the mirrors and bar is fantastic.  As you’ll see in many of these shots, Bonan likes to use thin lines of dark colour as frames or accents. It’s a great tip to steal.  Also notice the gorgeous camel-coloured leather with nail-head detail on the stools.

A very luxe bedroom with an amazing canopy bed.  Again , we have one chosen colour (soft yellow) with lots of white for balance and small hits of dark for contrast.  I’ve never been one for a fussy valance but this drapery is absolutely stellar and I am changing my mind.

The mix of cream and blue is so pretty in this one.  Something to note: when your room is mostly devoid of visual clutter, you can easily add a hit of pattern like with the two zebra stools against the wall.  Pattern in moderation gives a room lift and interest.

Gorgeous!!  While I’m not crazy about the grey bathtub top, I do love the mosaic-style tiling and french doors.  The tiles mirror the black iron grill-work outside.  Again, it’s cohesive and harmonious.

The only thing that I wouldn’t steal from this gorgeous dinning room is the exaggerated white vases that flank the window.  The rest is up for grabs: white chairs with nailhead-detail, chandelier art, soft grey, white and cream pallette.

Here is a great one for home-inspiration.  I love the soft purple ikat fabric on these two chairs and the dining-height round table placed between them.  This is a great idea for a breakfast nook or a games table in the living room.  The pretty shiny table and mirror in the background make it a complete vignette.

Now, buckle your seatbelts because we are about to go in a completely different direction.

This is the facade of The Heidelberg Suites.  According to the architect, it is inspired by German romanticism and classicism interpreted by a Florentine designer.  Once again, the building’s visual harmony and elegance really appeals to me.

This hotel is in keeping with it’s historic urban setting and is much richer and darker in tone than it’s mediterranean sister.  Notice the same thin-lines used to frame the top of the ceiling and door frames: a Bonan signature.

Soft white walls and dark flooring make the space feel classic while the busts, artwork and antler details are nods to the hotel’s historical setting.

This room is divine. Ideas to steal: 1. don’t be afraid of dark walls as long as they are broken-up with windows and large artwork; 2. camel coloured leather is something to covet; 3. silk drapes in acidic green look amazing against black walls!

I love the classic elegance of this little vignette– even though the modern carpet hints of something wackier in the rest of the room.

This is an example of the ‘more is more’ school of thought.  The vignette follows a few tried and true rules: start with a large statement piece like a mirror, then layer with something tall and symmetrical, something quirky and something fresh. Et voila! Style on a mantle.  PS I also love the grey-blue paint colour because is showcases the creamy white hearth stone.

A simply heavenly way to treat an upstairs loft or attic.  Warm wood floors, soft creamy chaise, natural fiber baskets and a warm fire.  This one works in Canada for sure!

That’s the end of our tour for now.  I urge you to check out the two hotel websites (links above) on your own as they offer lots of additional pictures (and take reservations!).  Maybe I’ll meet you there one day….

For those that speak Italian, here is a clip of the “architetto” describing his process at the JK Capri- or at least I think he is.  I’d love a translation is anyone out there is fluent: youtube

All photos found on hotel websites.

Style at Home Apartment Makeover

After months of work, an episode of Cityline (click here to watch), a photoshoot with the fabulous Virginia MacDonald and a relaxed winter of pure enjoyment, my lovely apartment makeover story is finally hitting newstands!  You can find it in a special issue of Style at Home called 100 + Best Designer Secrets which will be on shelves for several months to come.  I am so excited to share it with you!

My decor journey started two summers ago when I moved in to my little Leslieville townhouse walk-up with only a few pieces of furniture and a lot of books.  I had a bed, two shelves, a big sectional couch and a borrowed TV.   I was starting fresh- which was a blessing on move day- but meant that I needed to source lots of new pieces to make it feel like home.  The space is a modern box (see pics below) without much character or ornamentation. It has two main rooms: a living/dining/kitchen space and a decent size bedroom that is just wide enough to fit a queen-size bed and two side tables.  It has tons of light and a perfect location but absolutely zero personality. A blank canvas, if you will.


My challenges included an entrance door that opens into the living room (no foyer, no storage), dark wood kitchen cabinets that dictate the look of the whole room, limited space for a dining table, wall-to-wall carpeting in an oatmealy-type hue, a lack of privacy due to big windows and ground-floor situation, a plaster ceiling (no heavy light fixtures) AND a whack of bulk-heads that jut-out all over the place.  Nevertheless, I dug-in and eventually made it into a very comfortable place to call home.


I am super proud of how the living room turned out : I started with the gorgeous floral artwork from Elte because I love flowers so much and never, ever get tired of looking at them.  My second find was the decadent silk drapery from InView (sadly, they are no longer in business).  I don’t think I ever would have gone straight to dark violet for an investment piece but I could not help myself when I saw the lush fabric.  From there, the rest of the puzzle pieces fell in to place.  The paint colour is Benjamin Moore‘s “Edgecomb Grey” which turned out perfectly (true confession: I brought home dozens of sample pots to try before I picked this one. I was a mad-woman on a paint-colour-mission. Tip for readers: make sure you sample on the wall BEFORE you buy in large quantity. Light changes everything!).

My sofa is from Domison and replaced a much larger sectional that I moved from my previous apartment.  I really like the modern lines and dark wood base that grounds the piece and makes it unique.  The rug (ohhh the rug) is also from Elte and is TO DIE FOR.  I love the way it picks up the colour of the drapes but does so in a completely new way.  It’s such a key part of the room.


My bedroom is such an oasis now that I almost never want to leave!  Originally, I was going to do a much more subdued palette (I usually decorate with white, on cream, on light grey, on more white- it’s like a decorating tick). But a glam trip to Harbour Island last February roused my dormant love of colour and I decided to add as much of it as possible to my everyday life (within reason of course!).  I found the Farrow and Ball wallpaper first and fell in love with it.  I LOVE the colour yellow for a bedroom as it so uplifting yet soft at the same time.  The silvery-blue drapery came next (tip for those with privacy issues: hang soft translucent sheers under your black-out drapes and keep them drawn all the time- you get natural light without being on display to passersby), then the crisp white linens by Barbara Barry, with a silky throw that matches the drapes perfectly (sometimes these little miracles just happen).My lighting fixture from Universal Lighting is custom made and super dramatic.  It adds so much to the space and absolutely love the crystal orb that hangs from the center.  It was a big splurge on my part but I am so happy with the result.  It’s on a dimmer (of course!) and I can control the light level whenever as I want.

The second most dramatic part of the room is the wall of bookcases and mirrors.  I am big believer in creating serenity in the bedroom and I wouldn’t normally use bookshelves as I think that they can look cluttered and busy (in other words, not calming at all!).  But since I had no other place to put them I decided to alter the usual look and make it a stylish-wall of beautiful objects.  I turned the book spines away from view to reduce “noise” and they now look like romantic objets.  I also love to add antiques and natural touches whenever possible.  The shelves are from Ikea BTW and look great with glass doors.

The closet system comes from Space Solutions who did a terrific job of helping me to design the ideal layout for my small space (for anyone who has rushed morning routine like mine, I recommend re-doing your closet to make it more streamlined and organized.  It is a major stress-reliever).  I love the idea of displaying shoes, bags and other nice things.  Why not keep them in plain view?  They look fantastic!!

Anyway, I hope you grab and issue of the mag when you see it in the store and feel free to write to me with any questions or queries.  Things I’ve learned in the last year: 1. take your time and live in a space before decorating. You never know what ideas the walls will whisper while you sleep; 2. don’t be afraid of colour but use it sparingly by mixing in white or other neutrals; 3. display the things that you love as they will lift your spirits every day and lastly; 4. it’s your space so make every inch a reflection of your individual style. Have fun!

Special thanks to Raina Kirn of Raina and Wilson who shot my headshot (also featured on this blog).