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


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


Behind the Scenes at a Hudson’s Bay Photoshoot

One of my favorite types of projects is creating full rooms from top to bottom. To my extreme pleasure, that is exactly what I get to do with Hudson’s Bay!  Today I am going to bring you behind the scenes of a recent photoshoot that we did to showcase brand new linen collections for spring. As usual, shoots like these are HUGE productions with big crews, multiple photographers and lots and lots (and LOTS) of options.  What do I mean by options?  I mean that for every item that you see in the final shot, we probably brought 4 others to choose from.  And yes, that includes furniture.  Why do we need so many? Because I never know how things are going to look until I see them in the space, with lighting and bedding etc etc.  I would rather have an extra bedside table or two on hand and swap them in quickly than wish I had something different and get stuck.  Options are my best friend when I’m styling…unfortunately they can also be my assistant’s nightmare (thanks Biagio!).  On shoots for Hudson’s Bay I always, ALWAYS bring lots of flowers because there are bouquets in every shot and sometimes it can be a long process to get them exactly right.  We have to consider what looks good in the room, which blooms are seasonal/available (even though we are shooting months in advance), what speaks to the brand, what was done previously and what my clients prefer.  Luckily, flowers are my absolutely favorite thing to do.  See if you can spot our choices in the final images.

Anyway, without much further ado, I present to you images from the Spring Linens Book photoshoot.  Yes, we work really hard BUT we also have a lot of fun.  First is the cover image (you might recognize it from last week’s Globe and Mail insert):

hudsons bay may 17-30 2013 stephanie 1Setting up for the same shot.  Our locations was a super-hip furniture store in the West end.

IMG_0202On the other side of the camera: OPTIONS!!  And my makeshift desk is in there too somewhere.  Yes, it looks like chaos but I swear that we have a system.


Oh there it is! Among the flowers…on the most adorable Bay garden table.  Hey! It matches my phone!  And I always keep my receipts in a chic glass vase. Don’t you?


Biagio and I are in constant contact…and we bring our own phones.


We shot an alternative angle for the Esprit bedding and it included me (in a pink dress!) walking up and down the staircase in the background.  The image was meant to be blurred….LOL!

IMG_0227The last time you might ever see me in a dress this pink:


This is the final shot of new Distinctly Home bedding.  We were going for a uptown Kate Spade style.  I am in love with the gladiolas and the fabulous painted pipe wall! Amazing!  Oh and here’s a tip: garden stools as bedside tables. Why not?

hudsons bay may 17-30 2013 stephanie 2An alternative bike option for the above shot.  Super-chic no?

IMG_0215Here’s amazing off-figure stylist Rodney Smith (with photographer Paul Chmielowiec) creating those fantastic towel insert shots.

IMG_0218A better shot of Paul (the master behind all of the off figure shots in the book):

IMG_0219And who shot all the big room shots you ask?  Michael Graydon of course!  Here he is with our incredible Art Director Rebecca Watson.  Go Team!

IMG_0211All right now a few other random but fun shots. It’s raining chairs! Hallelujah!

IMG_0221Biagio, looking handsome, with “options”:


I love a pretty vignette:
IMG_0198Photo assistant Rudo working on his tan:

IMG_0220The communal inspiration desk:

IMG_0214Oh and here’s me (in my regular clothes) trying to get a handle on things.

IMG_0208What a fun shoot!!  Thanks very much to all involved especially those at Fuel Advertising and Hudson’s Bay.  A very special thank you to our tireless clients Arren Williams and Jen Radway.  Can’t wait to see you all again very soon.

PS: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bed-stylist Charlene Walton and producer Rosanna Tanti.  Nice work ladies!!!

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?

Hudson’s Bay Beauty Book

Well, it’s been a while since my last post but life and work have been a complete whirlwind for the last few weeks!!  Hopefully, that means I’ll have some great new images to post and tell you about.  Speaking of which, the Hudson’s Bay Beauty Book came in my Globe and Mail this morning and I can’t resist doing a mini-blog post to show you the image as well as a few behind the scenes tid bits.  This was a lovely project for me in which I got to collect as many pink peonies I could find -which was no easy task in January- and then sew them onto a pretty bandeau to fit directly onto our model.  I used a mix of real blooms and silks that blended together perfectly to create a gorgeous texture, not to mention a heavenly aroma!  I also placed flower in her hair, and shot individual blossoms for the background and page insets.  The sewing wasn’t always easy since natural flowers are so delicate and the final touches had to be sewn while the model was already wearing the “garment” but I think it turned out great.

FYI: Production by Blu, Photography by Christoph Strube, Makeup by Jackie Shawn and Hair by Justin German.

Here it is, take a look:

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Developing Personal Style: a brave act in a trend-mad world.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook

After watching the gorgeous documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel I’ve been thinking a lot about personal style and the bravery it takes to allow oneself to be fully free.  Ms Vreeland was a one-of-a-kind fashion editor for both Harper’s Bazar and Vogue in the 40s, 50s and 60s and had full artistic control over both publications.  She was a free-spirited, workaholic, exaggeration-prone, mad genius of style who loved all things visual and had a wonderful no self-censorship policy.  She lived everyday in head-to-toe dress-up and designed her home (with help of legendary designer Billy Baldwin) to be a fashionable lair to match her personality.  What would happen if we all let ourselves be as free?  What if we all worked to develop (and maintain!!) an exterior look that matches our interior lives?  How do we summon the courage to choose a style when everything we see and read dictates trend over personal taste? It’s a tough one.  I struggle with it all the time: do I prefer casual Californian decor with linen couches, raw wood and white walls OR Parisian antiques, high ceilings and chevron flooring?   And clothing is a completely different story!  Since fashion trends change so much faster than home-decor, there are so many more choices to boggle the mind and empty the wallet.  What to do?   In this, as with all things, a few role models might be key.

So in order to bolster myself (and hopefully you) towards more confidence in the self-decoration department, I’ve chosen three wonderfully courageous women who chose consistent looks -with subtle changes and updates of course- for both their wardrobes and their homes in equal proportion.  And guess what?  All three of these ladies will be remembered for bravely exposing what they truly love and their own personal sense of beauty, trendy or not.

Special note: I am NOT suggesting eschewing all current taste and fashion…just a little more playfulness perhaps.

I’ll start with Diana Vreeland.  It seems that she never skipped a day dressing to the nines:

Her design brief for her living room (below) was “I want this place to look a garden, but a garden in hell”.  I think she got her wish: with floor to ceiling scarlet chintz and Persian flowers and red carpeting her salon was an incredible expression of personal style.

Out on location with Harper’s Bazaar; sometimes the photographers would forgo the models and shoot their Fashion Director instead.  No fear, no second-thoughts.

My next inspiration comes from a movie called “Coco and Igor”, which came out way back in 2009 but I finally came around to recently.  I was struck with the consistency in Coco Chanel’s look for both home and wardrobe.  She was meticulous in her choices and built a full-fledged persona that changed fashion forever.  In fact, she was the opposite of a trendy-dresser, creating a whole new silhouette.

The following images are a shots from the movie -and I realize that the set-design could be an interpretation by the film’s designers (and I can’t find any information on accuracy)- but my point is that Chanel painted her world with her tastes and preferences- so much so that her clothes and her home were equal representations of her style.  At this point in the story, it’s 1920 and Art Deco is raging.  Instead of colour, she went with black and white.

Next is one of my personal style icons, India Hicks.  I discovered Ms Hicks when I visited Harbour Island in the Bahamas where she has her home. She is truly design-royalty and has crafted a whole lifestyle out of Island Living (and also a wonderful book of the same name).

“Island Style” caused ripples all around the design world and created a trend: casual yet elegant with loads of antiques (decor) and flowing, printed fabrics (fashion).  India Hicks’ design choices are authentic to her taste and experience and are so very inspiring to me.

I have had many a client ask me whether or not it might be best to design their homes like the pages of House and Home and leave it at that.  And while I love and admire the magazine to no end, I also try to encourage people to think outside the box and do something different.  Beige couches are great, but what else is there?  And if you are lost, there are tons of people out there who can inspire you by styling your home or giving your wardrobe a facelift.  Do you think Chanel did it all herself?  No way. Help is just around the corner. Drop me a line and I would be happy to send you a few names.

Anyway, I hope this gave you a boost on this dreary November day.  Next time you’re out shopping, give something new a try.  What would YOU do if you weren’t afraid?

Today’s Bride Cover Shoot

Hey all you Brides-to-Be and Weddingistas, the newest issue of Today’s Bride is on newstands and it includes two fashion stories styled by yours truly!  Here is a collection of my favorite images by photographer Carlyle Routh as well as a few peeks behind the scenes:

This image showcases one of my absolute favorite pieces: a killer headband by Jennifer Behr at White Toronto.  When I found it I couldn’t wait to see how it would look on model, Alex, and I was so pleased with the result!  I think it’s great with this strapless gown by Canadian designer Jasmine, no necklace and a simple earring by Tara Fava.  She looks totally balanced, fresh and pretty.  I also LOVE the bouquet by Pink Twig, one of the best floral designers in the city. (I also featured them in my Toronto Life wedding story that can be seen here).

This is hair and make-up artist Michele Rosen working her magic.  She is just such a genius with brides (and everyone else for that matter)!  Please check out her work at the link above- you won’t regret it.

This gown by Pronovias Balta  was a stunner on our model and I love that Michele left her hair down with just a gorgeous hair comb by Erin Cole at White Toronto.  Again, kept the neckline bare and added accessories to her wrist instead.  And don’t you love that industrial wall behind her? It’s the Fermenting Cellar at the Distillery of course!  (PS fluffing out the train wasn’t easy so make sure you have a good crew of bridesmaids on hand if you choose this one!).

This image is a stunner: I’m in love with the lipstick colour and the way it coordinates with the floral (yes, it’s always about the props for me!).  Pink Twig did a vibrant combination of pinks and oranges for this one and it’s so on trend.  The glittery necklace by Tara Fava sits just inside the model’s collarbone perfectly and adds sparkle to her pretty face.  The veil is a modern take on a traditional idea and perfect for anyone who wants a bit of both worlds.

I love this shot of Michele and Alex in the window light.  Just had to share.

Alex looks so young and happy with her balloons and blue Manolos. I mean, who wouldn’t??  A simple pearl necklace was all she needed to finish the look.

We changed themes (and models!) with our second chapter: sophistication and uptown style shot at the gorgeous One King West hotel.  The little jeweled headband, statement earring and super-soft fur shrug all from White Toronto are old-school hollywood glam. Perfect for a sophisticated evening wedding.

A dress like this one by Jasmine is a perfect opportunity to show off a dramatic shoe!  This one is by BCBG in bright fushia.  Also, the train can be removed easily for a sassy dance-floor ready dress that will take you all through the night.

Speaking of shoes: I loved these Louboutins from Davids so much I just had to sneak them in.  She looks like a little confection in this shot- her headpiece by Blair Nadeau matches her cake from the Cupcake Shop to perfection. Yum!

This dress by Jasmine is from another era: it has a Grecian influence and 1960s Hollywood look.  Can’t you just see Elizabeth Taylor or Grace Kelly in something like this? I love how Carlyle shot this too; it shows off the open back and lovely draping.

That’s it for now….there are lots more images in the magazine so make sure to grab yourself a copy and enjoy!!  Many thanks to Art Director Jo-Anne Martin Grier who dreamed-up this lovely story and is such a pleasure to work with.