Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Comfort & Joy

My bedroom 'dressed up' for the Holidays.

As the holidays drew closer I was craving the comforts of my own bed more than ever before.  Having been away for a few weeks on an extended road trip, we arrived home to a house in the midst of construction - it looked like one of my job sites, not my house...and they were clearly behind schedule.  Another two weeks of living thru and around the mess had me counting down the minutes until all the trades would be out the door and I could put the house back together again.  

The sight of our living room upon our return from the East Coast.  Not the welcome home I was expecting!  : /  It took another two weeks for all the work to be finished while we stayed at a brother's house.  When they were finally done, it was just six days until Christmas and pretty much the entire contents of our house were still packed away.

The first room I needed to put back in order was our bedroom.  A little touch of holiday greenery was enough to instantly put me in the spirit of the season and make the house look festive.  Ahhh the comforts of my own bed with all my own things around me once again.....

I plan on spending lots of down time here over the next few days,,,setting goals, making plans and dreaming big dreams for 2012.

To be able to enjoy the comforts of a crack'lin fire with family on Christmas day was truly joyful.

And sipping delicious hot teas from my new Iwachu iron tea set will bring me comfort & joy for many years to come.  I'm absolutely in LOVE with the sculputural lines of this tea pot,  I plan to leave it out where I can see it all the time.  Thank you Santa!

From my home to yours,
 I wish you Comfort & Joy
 this Holiday season and
 in the New Year ahead.



All Photos:   Carol Reed

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dream Worthy

Most people have a special vision of their dream home, considering I'm an interior designer you might be surprised to learn that all my visions of what make a *dream home* for me are more about the exterior.  I actually envision *dream views* around which my dream homes are designed (hey if its a dream, I can have multiple homes!).  Don't get me wrong, I'm all about well designed interiors but to me it goes so beyond that, its a bigger picture for me and that picture starts even before you set sight on the front door, its about the setting -  the location of the home makes or breaks it for me.  Specifically with my ideal locations, its all about the views.  An interior is just static and stale to me if it doesn't relate to the exterior and offer some type of view or sense of place that transcends beyond the interior walls.  The vibe of a home's architecture and interior in sync with its setting, its place.  I have this term I use called 'sense of place' I don't know if there's another proper design term for this but its the best way I can describe it.

My ideal interiors stem from having an incredible sense of place,,,,,the key to this for me is capturing great views that expand your eye beyond the interior walls.  My dream homes are always about some stunning non-static view.  I don't have just one dream home in my head, I have several - each one is quite different depending on the setting - but they all are designed around spectacular views, my dream views.  When I travel I can't help but fantasize about what kind of home I would design for whatever local i'm visiting and what kinds of scene(s) it would capture, and how the interior would play off those scenes. Weird maybe,,,but that's what inspires my visions for interior spaces.

I have to say when I told people recently that I was visiting Cape Breton for a few weeks, I experienced a lot of raised eyebrows and puzzled looks.  Cape where?  Is that in New Brunswick?  PEI?  Isn't it really cold there right now?  So for those who have never visited or know little about this East Coast Nova Scotian Island, I feel the need to explain my fascination with this beautiful place.   When I first visited Cape Breton two summers ago, I was never more captivated by stunning scenery than I was there. Its no wonder the Cabot Trail is rated in the top 20 most scenic roads to drive in the world!!  (The first three photos of this post are from my vacation there in August 2010.)

This island is home to many of my *dream views* all in one destination; dramatic ocean coastline, wide sandy beaches with long wispy grass, lush green highlands and valleys, sprawling rolling fields, and did I mention ocean views,,,ocean views everywhere.   I could instantly envision how a house could capture this beauty, whether you were ocean front, or high in the hills or amongst the lush valley's.  I was actually surprised that I didn't see more great architecture or design that really paid homage to these settings.   But there are a few exceptions, and I want to share with you the closest thing that I've ever seen to my own visions of a dream home - in real life........

This hilltop cottage is a second home to Los Angeles designers, Alexandra and Elliot Angle.  Its pretty much perfection in my eyes.  Its been published in Canadian House & Home, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Australia's Country Style, and countless other publications.   This house has received a LOT of coverage.  I think it's location lends a bit of 'mystery' to readers.

  Set on the highest point along this westerly section of coastline the cottage has breathtaking views up and down the coast overlooking the Gulf of can watch wales right from the deck.

via Australia Country Style

via Australia Country Style.

The house's modern salt box design with its weathered cedar shake siding was inspired by the local barns.   The low wraparound deck was inspired by a traditional lobster trap design.

via Australia Country Style

The interior is bright and open and painted about 10 varying subtle shades of blue, grey and green.



The house has wrap around ocean views.  The one side of the house that doesn't face the ocean, has mountain views.

Can you imagine sunset views like this from your own dining table.  Check out any of the links mentioned above for more interior photos and the full story of this L.A. couple's Canadian dream home...

Not too far away from the Angle's modern saltbox cottage above is another  modernized take on a saltbox cottage.  Again, up on a hilltop with views up and down the coast, the property gradually slopes down to the ocean.  Dreamy.  This oceanside cottage is offerred for vacation rental

This house has a bit of a rustic adirondak vibe (?) but the views are insane.  (Recently offered for sale but the listing no longer appears online.)

These houses all truly capture the beauty of Cape Breton the way I envision it.  

Dream home worthy in many ways.

Now back to reality,,,,,,,I returned from vacation to a house in the middle of construction/repairs, and Christmas is in 4 days.  Not so dreamy.

Photos 1, 2, 3:  Carol Reed
Photos 4, 5, 7:  The New York Times
Photos 9, thru 13:  Alexandra Angle Interior Design
Photos 6, 8: Australia Country Style
Photo 12:
Photo 13:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cape Breton Houses

I spent a few days in Sydney on Cape Breton Island where the houses all have that classic East Coast style that I love so much.  Its rare in these parts to see homes constructed of brick or stucco, or to see them painted in dull neutral colours.   My favorite exterior colour combo for these character houses is a dark deep grey/black or deep blue with white trim and a bold colorful front door.   Walk down any street and your bound to see a different hue on every house.   I also love that these houses have a lot of symmetry - with they're crisp white trim and colourful siding they're just the perfect showcase for holiday decor.

Whether I'm at home or travelling one of my favorite past-times is to walk thru neighborhoods and check out exterior home designs.  I wasn't disappointed in Sydney, it was a treat to stroll up and down the streets and take in all the different colour combos and, what I thought were all beautifully appointed front doors.

Not the greatest photo but the wreath on the front door (and side door) of this yellow house was gorgeous along with a pair of potted topiary evergreens it was so tastefully done.

Here's an example of that high contrast colour combo I love so much,,the contrast of the dark siding with the crisp white trim really highlights the architectural details.   Check out that railing design!

Here's another great railing design similar to the house photo above - love this!!

Once you get outside of the *city*, the houses in the rural areas you can still find some colourful houses but mostly you see a lot of naturally greyed cedar shake or painted white farmhouses.  Now these are what really speak to me,,,,,like this classic cedar shake farmhouse.  It sits high on a hilltop with panoramic ocean views along the west coast of the island - hello, whoever owns this beauty, I want your house.  : )

All Photos:   Carol Reed

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cape Breton: Island Beauty

A favorite subject of mine....I'm fascinated with barns. 
 In Cape Breton, ocean side barns are a classic sighting.

The dreary days of November can be the perfect time to get away for an Island vacation,,,,of course most people would probably dream of that island being in a tropical local - but not me, at least not this time.  I'm taking my summer vacation a little later than originally planned and am currently spending some time touring around the East Coast Island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  My boyfriend and I travelled around all of Nova Scotia in the summer of 2010 and were completely smitten with Cape Breton.   The highland landscape, the dramatic coastline, the lush green valleys and mountains,,,the food and the music captured our hearts.   

Most of the island is predominantly seasonal with tourism really dominating the local businesses from May thru October.  We've decided to spend a couple of weeks here during the off-season because, well we just prefer to do things differently,,,,,without the masses and to experience the Island not so much as tourists.  Some of the benefits of traveling during the off-season are that there are no tourists,,,there's actually NO ONE around here for the most part so its been great for photography,,,,but not so great at times trying to find places to eat or basic accommodations outside the main town of Sydney.  Definitely the best part about visiting during these chilly days,,,,hot seafood chowder and warm biscuits!  The best.

I could spend all day, every day with my camera and never run out of beautiful images to capture.

Cloudy days are great for shooting.

Except for a freak snow storm a few days ago, its been fairly mild and walks on the beach are still very enjoyable.

The inland waters are almost as expansive as the open ocean.

 I was crazy for these vintage deco like chairs in a little bakery in Mabou.  They were striking against black beadboard wainscotting.

Nothing beats local mussels and warm homemade biscuits....except enjoying them during an afternoon cailidh, the floor moving beneath you as the fiddle players pound their feet is an experience that's unforgettable.

Discovering a little Bistro in the middle of nowhere, hours from anything,,,,,that serves up gourmet delights is just heavenly.  Everything homemade,,,and the best scones I've ever had!

I hope to share more tales from Cape Breton soon as I find some wifi again. : )

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've had an affection for topiaries for as long as I can remember, going way back to before I ever went to design school.  I remember making them out of moss or dried roses for my own bedroom when I was just a teenager (ok, so maybe I spent a little too much time in my room!?).  I think its the sparseness and their sculptural quality that I'm drawn to, very much the same reasons I'm drawn to potted orchids - simple but ornamental.  Looking back at past projects I notice that I've used topiaries on almost every job, from traditional to modern spaces.  They're an artistic form of nature that I find timelessly appealing.

Last year at this time I was in NYC and I remember being captivated by a shop window that was full of topiaires. I stood there gazing (drooling) as if they were designer shoes or handbags,,,,,,for what seem like ages, wanting so badly to take a few home with me!  

Rosemary topiaries are one of my favorites, beautiful and edible!

On a recent photoshooot I used a couple of mismatched ones to style my clients kitchen table.  At the time, I had to scour the city trying to find them (why is you can NEVER find what you need when you want it!!??) - all I kept thinking of was the little shop in NYC that had been overflowing with them...

I love the look of this one, its wild shaped top paired with a modern cube pot.  This one currently sits on my own coffee table, a nice change from the fresh orchid I usually have here.

My current favorite pot for topiaries are these taupe coloured clay pots from Home Depot. I'm simply crazy for this colour which i find so much more chic looking than typical terracotta colour.


I couldn't do a post on topiaries without including this space by one of my favorite designers Vicente Wolf.  I simply love everything about this grouping, especially those chairs.

It feels good to be back on the blog again - its been a while!!  So much to blog about soo little time,,,,I'm looking forward to updating all that's been happening here soon......

All Photos:  Carol Reed

Monday, October 10, 2011



A lake side cottage, brilliant fall colours, clear blue skies and summer like temperatures.  An absolute picture perfect setting for celebrating a harvest style thanksgiving feast with family and friends.   Every fall at this time I declare that its my favorite time of year and this year was no exception, well, actually the weather, the setting, the company - it was all truly EXCEPTIONAL.   I was up north at my brother's cottage where we had invited a group of other family and friends on the lake to join us for a Thanksgiving dinner.  I was in charge of setting the table (actually nobody really had a choice, I called dibs on it weeks ago!!!) and I was thrilled to do it because often at my own home, this is the part of a holiday dinner that I usually run out of time to do.  But not this weekend, this was a leisurely day, dinner was pre-planned and well organized ahead of time so we were able to enjoy the company and the gorgeous warm summer like day. 

The sunlight illuminating the brilliant orange, red and gold leaves was the effect I wanted to create in a tablescape.

I had no idea how exactly I was going to set the table, I had no plan except that I would use whatever I could find on-hand both inside and outside the cottage.   We started by rearranging the furniture and setting up a long table down the centre of the cottage in front of the fireplace.   A mix of mismatched table cloths, runners, plates and stemware all seemed to work together with the fall colours.   Now the essentials were in place it was time to add some drama - my niece and I headed outside and collected a bundle of blazing red maple leaf branches and another bundle of golden yellow ones.  I placed three tall beaker style vases down the centre of the table and filled them with the long branches, we layered all the smaller off-cuts directly on the table itself scattering them down the middle from end to end. 

We gathered small pieces of birch bark and used them as place cards by writing names on them with an orange marker and setting one on each plate.  Lastly we scattered about a dozen votive candles down the table and set larger candle lanterns around the cottage.  The entire setting, including gathering the branches took less than an hour.

The effect was simply beautiful and dramatic, the tall branches created a brilliant canopy of leaves...

When seated at the table the colourful leaves glowed over our heads and all around the votive candles.  

We enjoyed the day outside, and had drinks and appy's on the deck overlooking the lake.  The sun was just setting as we headed inside.....from one spectacular showcase of colour...

To another.

Even though the weather was summer-like, we lit a fire in the fireplace, just for the ambience...

The drive home was full of breathtaking views likes this, we took the long scenic route home and soaked it all in.  In case I havn't said it enough times this weekend, its my favorite time of year!


All Photos:  Carol Reed
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