IDS12 and a belated Happy New Year


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The New Year arrived with a bang. I learned I could no longer eat food containing gluten. Ever! It’s been an adjustment to say the least. Though I’ve spent years cooking for a family of five, I’ve never really loved it. This new “adventure” may even turn me into a foodie. (There’s hope for me yet Wendy and Mark!)

My new favourite blog is gluten free girl and the chef. It’s written by Shauna James Ahern, a talented writer that celebrates fresh foods and flavours. I’m finding her so inspiring. Maybe life without gluten won’t be so bad after all.

Though Whole Foods has become my favourite haunt lately, I did manage to check out Trade Day at the Interior Design show in Toronto last weekend. The best part of the show has always been the Studio North area. This is where you’ll find raw creativity and new ideas. Some of the artists and designers are fairly well established, others are just getting started.

This gorgeous table caught my eye. Nomo creations is a new company started by a charming father/son duo. Furniture designer Jamie Sajdak is based in Toronto and his Dad Eric manufactures the designs in Prince Edward Island. Take a look at the orbit table. It’s made of steam bent and laminated walnut. The Sajdak’s can also make it in ash or oak and will do custom sizes. The cool thing about their work is it’s designed to be collapsed for storage or transport.

If you love cottaging and the outdoors like I do, check out Contact Voyaging Co., a partnership between owners Alex Jowett and David Barclay. Using the Semaphore navigational flag system, they’ve created some striking designs on basswood paddles. You can buy them directly from the company for $185. a piece. Take a look at some of their work:

This year, Zac Ridgely shared his booth with woodworker Nick Day. Here are a few of Zac’s striking lighting designs.

Nick Day combines solid surface materials with wood. His use of inlays really sets his work apart.

Walking around the show, Tangerine Tango – Pantone’s 2012 colour of the year seemed to be everywhere. The Benjamin Moore and Para booths were dull compared to Farrow and Ball’s display, which paired orange stripes (Charlotte’s locks) and gray (I think it was Pavilion Gray). The company used a handmade Hastens bed and a little modern glam – not your typical F & B look. It seemed to work. There were so many people hanging about, it was hard to get a good photo.

The Alfred Sung outdoor furniture line (below) was also surprisingly chic, given how affordable it is. The orange and soft brown colour scheme was warm and inviting. You can check it out at The Bay. Great display.

Snob was refreshingly original. It featured an interesting mix of handcrafted pieces from Africa. The materials and colours were so fresh. These are pieces you haven’t seen in every other store. The halo lighting was particularly beautiful.

Hope you enjoyed this snapshot of the show.

5 reasons why you need plants in your home


I love a touch of greenery in my home. Whether it’s a topiary or a few oversized leaves, it doesn’t take much to add personality and soul. This time of year, I have the urge to pare down, toss out brittle pine boughs, pack away the Christmas decorations and start fresh.

JM Interiors

Here are a few reasons why you need plants in your home.

1. Ficus trees are on Canadian House and Home’s must have list this year.

We’re not talking about spider plants in macrame hangers. Plants today are “sculptural and modern.” They command attention in a room.

Interior Designer Grant Gibson didn’t let the size of his apartment deter him from featuring a towering fiddleleaf fig tree near the bay window. It seems to be straining to check out the view.

2. Plants are natural beauties. They come in all shapes and sizes.

In this family room by Calgary interior design firm McIntyre Bills, the addition of the oversized plant provides the finishing touch. It complements the natural colour scheme.

3.  Plants help detoxify our homes. They literally clean the air we breathe.

Chloe Warner – Domino

4. They last so much longer than flowers! More bang for your decorating buck.

These enormous topiaries make a statement in this McIntyre Bills designed kitchen.

5. Plants look amazing alone or in multiples!

 Here’s another stunning room from McIntyre Bills.

I hope this inspires you to make plants part of your home.

Have a very Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!


We’ve dug out the classic Christmas CDs today. It doesn’t matter how old the kids are, they still love Rudolph and Frosty. 

I wish we had a little snow to dress up the neighborhood.  The trees look so barren without it. Though it may not look like Christmas outside, it sure feels like it at our house — a truly fun day.

I started this blog just over a year ago. Thanks to those of you who’ve supported my efforts. It means a lot to me.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and best wishes for good health and laughter in 2012.

Go ahead – create a gallery wall


I find myself drawn to homes with gallery walls. I love how they convey a relaxed collected feeling. If you’re thinking you don’t have any fabulous art to work with — think again. It’s all about the mix.

image via slim paley

Take a painting you inherited and combine it with an etching from e-bay, a piece of metal sculpture and some black and white photography and you’re well on your way. This is one of my favourite gallery walls by talented Canadian interior designer Christine Ralphs. She designed this wall in her home using a variety of images, some purchased very inexpensively.

Images from March 2011 – Canadian House and Home magazine 

The black and white theme pulls together pieces that complement each other, without looking overly curated.

In Canadian House and Home editor Suzanne Dimma’s home, she’s also mixed black, natural wood and gold frames. What a welcoming space. Each piece seems to tell a story.

While visiting the offices of Hambly and Woolley in Toronto, I discovered this fresh gallery wall in graphic designer Barb Woolley’s office. Barb has impeccable taste and it shows throughout the company’s cool loft space. Her use of initials is charming.

At Hambly and Woolley, Barb and her husband artist Bob Hambly even have a gallery wall in their lunch room! Talk about inspiring creativity.

I visited artist/illustrator Alanna Cavanagh’s studio home earlier this year. I couldn’t take my eyes off the gallery/salon wall she created in her living room. Alanna used some of her own work (love her men’s brogue shoe), but added a variety of pieces and textures to create an interesting vibe.

image via

I like the eclectic feeling in this space. The mix of textures from the furniture to the art makes it fresh and interesting. Again, I see that metal on the wall – it seems to be a key ingredient in many of the best gallery walls. Frames of different thicknesses and sizes really work.

image via The Paris Apartment

Here’s another vignette that beckons you to take a closer look. I do love dark moody walls but have to say white is one of the best choices for a gallery wall, as it lets you mix so many different colours and shapes without looking busy.

Image via Apartment Therapy 

So how do you get started? I think it really depends on the space, the ceiling height and the effect you’re going for. Some people lay their art on the floor and play with the arrangement. You can easily cut out newspaper or Kraft paper templates of each piece — taping them on the wall to see if you like the effect. Spacing between the frames usually varies from 2 to 4 inches – you’ll know what’s right when you stand back and squint. There really are no rules if you like the effect.

Elizabeth Sullivan via Modern 24/7 and 

I tend to start with the largest piece in the middle and fan out from there, adding and subtracting until I’m happy with the look. Ideally if I’ve left enough room, I can keep adding pieces over time. The most creative gallery walls are truly personal — combining paintings with photography and personal treasures — anything from a framed mitten to an antique key. If you love it and it means something to you — use it.

Shake off the formality of symmetrical arrangements and design your own gallery wall. I’d love to see what you come up with.

image via Lonny

How do museum curators pick the perfect wall colour?


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Have you ever been to a museum or art gallery and wanted to re-create the same feeling in your home.? I know I have. You might be interested to know, the Guggenheim Museum in NYC has joined forces with Fine Paints of Europe, a Vermont-based company that imports paint from the Netherlands, to launch two paint collections.

Photo courtesy of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Yesterday, the Toronto Star published an article I wrote about the Guggenheim paint collections and the art of picking the perfect wall colour to highlight your art. You can read it here: I also included a sidebar with favourite paint suggestions from Toronto interior designer Carol Reed and Vancouver interior designer Patricia Gray. Check it out.

What’s Martha Sturdy doing in Tokyo?



It’s always inspiring to see someone live life on their own terms.  Martha Sturdy is doing just that. She’s a versatile sculptor and artist who over a 30 year career has made everything from resin jewellery to home accessories and sculptural club chairs.

One of Martha Sturdy’s resin on steel paintings

Imagine earning a healthy living (she has a handful of stunning homes!) from the things you love to do most. I don’t know Martha, but I can’t help admiring the way she’s always pushing the boundaries of her art. Her works are getting larger, and her life richer with each new project. She’s well into her sixties and she seems unstoppable. I did a post on her earlier this year which you can read here:

Martha recently debuted her sculptural series “Reflections” in Tokyo Japan. Her brand of western modernism fuses well with Japanese design. The salvaged cedar used for the series was hand selected by Martha, split, charred and sanded to create the velvet like texture. Apparently the finished pieces reach heights of up to thirteen feet once erected in their steel bases. They have an appealing tactile quality that makes you want to reach out and touch them. (How many grandmothers look this chic in boots?)

It must have been quite an undertaking transporting these impressive sculptures. The forest surrounding her home in Pemberton BC inspired the series. I’d love to see what these pieces look like installed in a loft or office.

Martha at her farm in Pemberton BC

“Reflections” was featured at two design shows: Tokyo Design Week and Bamboo Expo and the art gallery Orie. Martha, who has returned to her artistic roots in sculpture over the past 10 years, also had an exhibit called Autumn and Winter which included 24 painted works of art.

She says, “I want to deliver an experience: to draw you in to interact with the sculptures, to see their undulating shape and feel their satin texture.” To learn more about Martha’s work, check out her website here.  If you’re curious about Martha’s cottage, you can read about it in a post I wrote here:   Photos courtesy of Martha Sturdy Inc.

I like these stripes



It’s that time of year. When your mailbox fills up with catalogues. I toss many of them into the recycling bin, but I found myself captivated by the latest offering from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Point Blanket collection is really well done.

The Cashmere hot water bottletravel mug and snowboards. Nice!

Gotta love the dog sweater. Not sure if I’d buy the candle, but I do like the umbrella.

The Hudson’s Bay company was the world’s first department store. It’s been around for 300 years. The traditional multi-stripe point blanket in green, red, yellow and indigo is a classic. It was introduced by the company in 1790. These colours were simply popular at the time and easily produced using colourfast dyes.

For the aboriginal community, the colours do have some significance. Green means new life, red often stands for battle or hunt, yellow relates to the harvest and sunshine and the blue represents water.

The point blanket comes in a number of colours. It was brought to North America by Hudson’s Bay Company traders and used for trade with aboriginal people. Today the blankets are still made in England from 100 percent wool. The points are the short black lines woven into the blanket just above the bottom bar or set of stripes.

The millennium blanket is my favourite.

The grey point blanket would be great in a boy’s room.


The scarlet point blanket, multi-stripe wool scarf and green point blanket

The Smythe swing coat

A few years ago when The Bay launched it’s HBC collection, the company invited 10 Canadian fashion designers to create one-of-a-kind coats from a Hudson’s Bay point blanket. Here’s what Smythe came up with. You may recognize their style. Designer Sarah Richardson often wears Smythe jackets on her shows. Fun fact: Smythe co-owner Christie Smythe, is designer Tommy Smythe’s sister and longtime friend of Sarah’s.

Tommy Smythe and his sister Christie – co-owner of Smythe.

photo by Della Rollins for The Globe and Mail.

If you’re interested in learning more about HBC, check out this new book published by Assouline. It’s written by Winnipeg journalist Mark Reid, with a foreward by Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. It’s an interesting read – even if you’re not Canadian!

For more info on the HBC collection check out the company website here. Search under the HBC collection – Get your stripes. Have fun.

Finding art in the attic – check out my article in The Toronto Star


I wrote a piece in The Toronto Star today about a collection of 1930’s paintings by Vince de Vita that Richard Brightling discovered nailed to the rafters of his Toronto attic.

Here are two of the paintings from the Vince de Vita Heritage series.

I think you’ll find it an interesting read.

The paintings are available for sale from Sotheby’s in Toronto. For more on Richard, who is also an artist, take a look at this post I wrote earlier this year  –

10 things you should know about Tom Thomson


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Tom Thomson was obsessed with capturing the magic of Algonquin Park. Like many artists before him, his work wasn’t widely recognized for its brilliance until after his death. This week an exhibition featuring the work of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London England. It’s called Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.

West Wind -1917

1. Many people think Tom Thomson was part of the Group of Seven. He wasn’t. He worked closely with a number of founding members and influenced their development. But he died three years before the group was formed.

The Group of Seven was made up of A.Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, Fred Varley, Franklin Carmichael and Frank Johnston.

Maple saplings – 1916-1917

2. Thomson died tragically and mysteriously in 1917 while canoeing alone on Canoe lake in Algonquin Park. Controversy still surrounds his death.

3. The artist had little or no formal training as a painter.

Autumn foliage – 1915

4. A naturalist, Thomson was an accomplished guide and woodsman. He loved to fish.

The Northern River – 1915

One of my favourite Tom Thomson paintings

5. Writer Roy MacGregor is fascinated with Tom Thomson. He’s written a book called Canoe Lake and more recently a non-fiction account of Thomson’s life called Northern Light: The enduring mystery of Tom Thomson.

Writer Roy MacGregor  

6. Thomson was the youngest member of what was once called “the hot mush” school of art. Today, his work is revered internationally. No one is calling it mush!

Autumn birches – 1916

7.  He painted smaller sketches on site in the spring and summer– taking them back to his studio in Toronto to develop them into larger finished works over the winter.

Spring Ice – 1915-1916

I love the freshness of this piece. It’s always exciting to see blue water re-emerge after a snowy winter.

8. Thomson’s work attracted the attention of art collector Dr. James MacCallum. Dr. MacCallum helped the artist out financially and was instrumental in bringing attention to Thomson’s work.  Dr. MacCallum bequeathed his collection to the National Gallery in Ottawa when he passed away in 1943.

 The Pool – 1915

9.  Just before his death, Thomson was hoping to sell his sketches for $10 – $15. a piece. Today one of those sketches would likely sell for $2 million at auction.

The Jack Pine – 1916-1917

Thomson’s most iconic painting.

10.  Tom Thomson painted for less than six years. Yet he remains one of Canada’s most influential painters.

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has the largest number of Tom Thomson works. The McMichael Canadian Collection in Kleinburg Ontario also has a number of major works. The Thomson Collection in Toronto and the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in Owen Sound Ontario (Thomson’s birth place) also feature the artist’s work.

You can see highlights of the Dulwich show in London here. Painting Canada runs until January 8, 2012 in London England.

For people who love trees


There’s nothing like a walk in the woods. It opens your eyes to the simple perfection of nature.  Essex county artisan Jessie Hirt loves trees. One day he hopes to live in the woods. Take a look at some of his clever creations using fallen trees and reclaimed lumber.

The Ipod docking station. Melding nature and technology. Love it.

Jessie’s company Woodlot creates everyday things you can use in your home from jewellery, toys to home accents. He uses natural finishes like tung oil and beeswax polish. It’s amazing to see what he can do with scraps of wood.

The firewood desk organizer is made from large chunks of firewood. It would be perfect on an industrial desk.

The sulpher butterfly became the company logo after it landed on a slice of spalled beech. If you think it’s good enough to frame, order a set of postcards.

The detail is stunning.

Rustic branch slice coasters are cut, baked, sanded and sealed with natural tung oil. Woods include elm, maple, cedar, yellow birch and cherry – all from fallen tree branches.

Each toy car is unique – a bit like the trees we find in the woods.

These wood buttons come in all shapes and sizes. They’re all made from reclaimed wood and are cut, drilled, sanded and oven dried – sealed with tung oil. What can you use them for? Well, Jessie suggests they work well on pillows, sweaters, journals or as closures on purses or bags. I think they’d be incredible on linen pillows.

Bookmarks for nature lovers.

This reclaimed wood journal has 40 blank pages of reclaimed paper.

If you want to learn more about Woodlot, check out the company website and etsy shop here.