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.


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

In part 2 of my trend-rating series I am looking at three things: “beige”, “brass” and “outdoors-in”.  There are some winners and one very obvious looser and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Trend One: Beige

Some say that Toronto suffers from an over abundance of off-white but I say that beige is an essential shade that can be updated and changed to keep up with the times.   I love how a room can feel tranquil and quiet when it’s done in layers of white, cream and taupe.  Elle Decor has proclaimed that “Beige” is one of the top trends for 2013 but has it ever gone out of style?  Yes, this is a backlash against many coloured rooms that we have seen recently but I think perhaps that beige is timeless rather than trendy.  For me, this is a 10 out of 10.

For a perfect update, add hits of caramel like in the example below (courtesy of Elle Decor):


This is a look that Restoration Hardware is doing extremely well right now and keep in mind it can be toned-down if this seems over the top:

Restauration Hardware 1 Restauration Hardware 3 Restauration Hardware 4

Trend Two: Brass

Trends in metallics are always shifting from decade to decade and we have seen tons of brushed silver and nickel in the recent past.  With the 70s making a comeback (for better or for worse) designers are using brass and tarnished gold in everything from drawer pulls to coffee tables.  I like this trend and welcome the appearance of a warm metal: 8 out of 10.   Below is an image from Elle Decor featuring an interior designed by Kelly Wearstler:


Coffee table by Mastercraft from the 1970s:Brass 2 A brass mirror from Elte:Brass 3

Trend Three: Outdoors-In

Next let’s move on to one from House and Home: “Nature Comes Inside”.  I am going to break this one into two parts: architecture (a winner) and decor (not so great).  H & H describe the trend as “breezy architecture and nature-inspired accents bridge the indoor-outdoor divide”.  For the record, I love this one and feel a great sense of joy whenever I see a house designed with big windows that open up on a terrace.  It’s a beautiful idea, but is it trend-specific to 2013?  Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935 with this exact principle in mind and has it really ever disappeared? Maybe, maybe not (I am pointing at you 1980s) but either way, I adore this look in architecture wholeheartedly; 10 out of 10. 


Falling Water

A modern example:

Modern Outdoor

House and Home also encourages using outdoor adornments like moss-filed urns and garden lanterns to decorate inside citing Anthropolgie’s Terrain collection of woodsy-inspired furniture and decor as an example.   Some things I like and others should be left in the shed. Because there are so many bad examples, I give “outdoors-in” decor a 5 out of 10.  Here are a few examples of things that I think could integrate into a good-looking modern home:
Outdoor 1 Outdoor 3 Outdoor 6
Now here are a few very bad examples.  It seems as if Anthropology is using the trend factor to majorly over charge.
This rusted old child-size chair is $300:
Outdoor 2This scrap wood cabinet could be found in the back of countless barns across the country.  And guess what? They are charging a whopping $2400!
Outdoor 4This is called the “antique swedish table” for $1498.  Unbelievable.
Outdoor 5
Like I said, there are great ways to bring nature inside like fresh flowers, lanterns, planters and drift wood.  And I do believe that it can be done tastefully and without spending a fortune.

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).