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

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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.

BEFORE:

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.

AFTER: LIVING ROOM

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.

AFTER: BEDROOM

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).