Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

Angus & Company
If I could wish for any living room from Santa right now it would be this one!  Sadly this image is NOT my living room - ours is currently an empty shell of a structure (post demolition state) and we are still making do in our temporary living quarters in the back of the house. There is barely room for two of us, two cats and our basic essentials let alone a Christmas tree or any holiday decor.  Due to these circumstances and my work schedule I accepted the fact that Christmas of 2012 will go down as being our Christmas that never was.  It was a significant one none the less, being our first Christmas in our home in Nova Scotia, the fist Christmas we haven't been with family or hosted a Christmas dinner, and the first Christmas without my mom.  But I'm not going to dwell or be disappointed or sad - we're just celebrating in smaller ways, grateful for all we do have and,,, I'm continuing to work round the clock on a project deadline.  Inside, secretly, making lists and plans for next Christmas.

The holidays always have a way of suddenly arriving and making me feel so unprepared.  In true form just days before Christmas I was still in Toronto for meetings and sourcing for a cottage project I'm working on.  Toronto seemed to be in full holiday mode and I was completely oblivious to it up until that point, hadn't given it a moments thought.  Now that I was there I couldn't get enough of it, I love the sights of the city all decked up for the holidays.  I soaked it all in knowing that back at home on the east coast ......not a creature was stirring...

It was especially sweet to visit one of my absolute favorite shops in Toronto, Angus & Company, to do some sourcing.  I've said before that if there was any shop in Toronto I could just move in to it would be this one.  When I walk thru this shop I find it intoxicating, it just hits all the right notes for me and resonates with my personal taste.  To be able to see the shop dressed up for the season was uplifting and motivating knowing what I can look forward to in my own home next year.  The simple use of seasonal greens, white flowers and candles epitomizes my idea of beautiful holiday decor.   I just wanted to plop down, put my feet up and sip some eggnog.

Angus & Company
A faux fur throw is one of my must have cold weather accessories.  If you want to add instant luxurious coziness to a room,,,throw one of these over a chair, sofa, or bed.  I own two different ones and am actually sad to put them away when the warmer temps arrive.  Aside from the paper whites, candles and furry blanket,,,,my favourite touch is the teddy bear sitting in the evergreen wreath!

Angus & Company
Simple, seasonal, perfect.  The teddy bears were perched everywhere - I think they're nostalgic and joyful for any age.  Now this vignette did it for me, I had to have a pair of these bears.

Angus & Company
I simply couldn't leave without taking both of these guys with me.  They were my carry-on baggage for my flight back to Halifax (they even got a big smile out of the security screener).  

Whether this holiday season was full of old traditions, new traditions or transitions....I wish you peace, joy and good health in the new year to come!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looking Up

Our house renovations have been progressing at a snail's pace, read, not progressing at all.  The time has come to make some changes on that front and get some new energy on this project!  On the bright side,,things are looking up, at least on the outside.  We were lucky to enjoy some warm autumn temps throughout November and we managed to get a new roof installed.  Selecting the actual roof shingles was something I angsted over for weeks and even though I was pretty discouraged by the options available to chose from, I'm completely thrilled with our final choice.

I've always considered a cedar shake roof the dream roof choice, its natural texture and patina are my idea of the quintessential roofing material especially for an East Coast character home.  Is there anything more classic and timeless?  I didn't however, consider a cedar shake roof as a viable option for our house for several reasons, but I did want to find something that evoked that same character.  After viewing what was available at the local building centres and spending weeks driving around looking up at roofs everywhere I went, I realized that finding a shingle I liked (other than cedar shake) wasn't going to be easy, or fun.

There are some amazing alternate and eco friendly shake alternatives that I found but they proved to be more than 3X the upfront cost of an architectural asphalt shingle.  Needless to say, with an entire interior reno still ahead of me, furniture, landscaping,,,,and a future barn conversion I wasn't compelled to splurge and bust the budget on this very first reno decision.  The roof is one of, if not the most important protective element of the home and a prominent aesthetic feature so its certainly not where I wanted to scimp either.  I was determined though not to pick something simply because I hated it the least but at one point it was looking that way....

Have you shopped for roof shingles lately? Around these parts these are predominantly what you'll find in the architectural asphalt shingle category (above) and they just weren't appealing to me.  I'm not fond of the high contrasting multi-tones which look very 'patchwork' and unnatural to me and I really wasn't a fan of the heavy black line that was common on many - meant to simulate shadow lines and create the illusion of depth but I felt it just looked very faux even from a distance.

This is an example of the patchwork effect I felt many of the architectural shingles looked like. : /   Often you may not realize by looking at the display board how multi-coloured and contrasting the overall effect will be.  I drove around and looked at local installations of specific shingles so I could see the effect in person and it was always surprising how much different they looked from the sample and how much their appearance changed depending on the slope of the roof, time of day and colour of the house itself.

I was looking for a very warm medium dark grey with subtle tone variations, easier said than found. Until I came across this one (above) on line which looked like it ticked all the boxes so we headed to Halifax to check them out in person.  Of course the display sample looked quite different from the current stock on the shelves (common) so we bought several sheets and brought them home...something I highly recommend doing.

We tried them out on the back of the house, and looked at them at different times of the day....

And we tried them out on the front of the house.  Decison made.  Timberline's HD Canadian Driftwood was our pick.

Early on in the installation, our first glimpse of what a larger area of these shingles would look like....

The front of the house now complete and we were really happy with the texture and colour.  It doesn't look "patchworky", the subtle tones of grey look more as if they are naturally weathered as opposed to multi-coloured or simulated.

As the sun was setting you can see how the sunlight effects the colour and shadows at various times of the day.....

You can really see the textural effect the architectural shingles add to the roof.  Its certainly not a substitute for cedar shake but I think the tones and dimension of these have that natural look to them that I was seeking.

And dusted with an early morning frost,,,if you squint your eyes,,they almost, almost might be mistaken for cedar shake.  ; )  Good choice.

But the best part of all is,  NOW we can move forward with the rest of the house renos!!!

All Photos by:  Carol Reed

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Special Delivery: MMD

Illustration by Michelle Morelan

In this electronic era of emails is there anything more exciting than opening up your "real life" mail box to find a package inside with beautifully handscripted writing on it,,,,,,the type of writing that can only belong to an artist or craftsperson - the sight of that alone makes your heart race thinking about what could possibly be inside!

Custom stationary of Michelle Morelan Design

I immediately recognized the writing of my friend, the uber taltented Vancouver based designer/illustrator/artist Michelle Morelan.  (You may also know her from her popular blog A Schematic Life).  I felt like a kid at Christmas as I opened up this surprise package.  Before I tell you more about the contents, I have to share the opening up of the package with you because it was a treat in itself.  The packaging was a perfect example of someone who lives by the credo of good design, in all the details.  The stationary was worthy of its own moment of appreciation.

Inside the postage envelope was a handwritten letter on a beautiful piece of folded custom letterhead, the back of the paper was a patterned monogram logo print, unfolded, the inside was an off-white linen texture with embossed monogram logo on the top.  Exquisite.  In addition to that was an envelope in the same off-white linen paper.  As if the exterior of the linen envelope with embossed logo and modern grey font wasn't beautiful enough, opening it up revealed the inside of the envelope was lined in the patterned monogram print too.  A really lovely detail!

This monogram print was on the back of the letter head and inside of the envelope.

Inside this envelope was a card, on heavy grey stock.  Partially folded over one blank side for personal messages, and exposing a large tone on tone logo print on the other.

Embossed card with logo print.

After I finished swooning over Michelle's gorgeous stationary, and being moved by her hand written words,,,,i choked up completely when I unwrapped this very special gift from Michelle, a little something for my new home on the East Coast.

My new old house, illustration by Michelle Morelan.

Its an illustration of my new old house on the East Coast, drawn by Michelle of course, and mounted in a vintage frame that she found at a local flea market - I'm crazy about the frame! She remembered me telling her one time I had some artwork in antique gold frames.  The fact that she's a special friend and one of the most talented architectural illustrators of our time,,,,makes me feel so lucky - its now one of my most favorite things and I'll cherish it always.  It'll have a special place in my home somewhere near my desk to remind me of this talented woman I admire and inspire me to sketch more.  : )

Thank you Michelle with all my heart.  From the east coast to the west coast - xoxo.

Also, kudos to the talented team at the multi-disciplinary design firm Meade Design Group who designed Michelle's cards/stationary (and website design).  Beautifully done.

All Photos by:  Carol Reed

Thursday, November 15, 2012



Changes have a way of happening in multiples.  There have been a lot of changes around here lately.  One of them is Lucy.  This is Lucy (photo above).  Out of the blue this little black and white fuzz ball showed up on my back porch 3 months ago, desperately crying from hunger,,,,all skin and bones, she wrapped herself around my ankles and my heart in an instant.  Her timing couldn't have been worse, or, more perfect if you're a cat looking for a beachside home.  We were in the middle of packing up a house in Toronto and moving it all to the East Coast.  She was homeless and decided she wanted to come with us, she literally forced her way into our home and made it clear she wasn't leaving.  She could care less we already had a cat.  She wanted what he had and nothing was going to stop her.  Apparantly word on the street was that we were headed to a house on 5 acres complete with an old barn and she wanted to hitch a ride.  Her plan worked.  After taking her to the vet and nursing her thru her shots and being spayed,,,I was completely and hopelessly attached and couldn't possibly part with her or give her up to anyone, so of course she came with us to Nova Scotia.   Our 11.5 year old tabby wasn't so thrilled.  We weren't so thrilled about the prospect of a two day long road trip with them, which was pretty much a nightmare but we made it.


The two cats are polar opposites as far as personality goes and its been fun to watch them slowly become friends.  It was stressful and chaotic keeping them separated from each other for the many weeks that we had to but as I told myself it was better than her living on the streets.  It took a long time to name her and for months she was simply called Kitty. So impersonal.  Her personality is so dominant I just couldn't think of a name that suited her character.  She's what I call a cartoon cat...the epitome of every stereo typical cat characiture.  She's a bully and a sucky baby at the same time.  She's a girl but she's about as graceful as a bulldog (no offense to bulldogs!).   She's kinda gawky looking and with her broad stance and her pipe cleaner stick legs she's quite hilarious to watch when she runs.  She's only 10 months but she's a survivor,  every time we let her outside she quickly returns with a "present" she's caught.  She knows how to fend for herself, she's fearless.   We now call her Lucy as named by a brother who was staying with us over thanksgiving.  She seems to suit it.  She bullies and torments our 11.5 year old Elliot just like Lucy did to Charlie Brown.  

This is where kitty was living until I took her in.   She was living in these bushes 24/7 all by herself, never leaving our yard.

I've come to see how beautiful she is and even though she was completely unexpected and totally a surprise in our lives, it seems like she fits into our new house here like she was made for it.  I have so many black and white accessories in the house, she really looks like just another one.   The diamond shaped black and white markings on her face and chest mimic the gothic window on the front of our black and white house.  She matches.  So yah, we think she's kinda special like she was meant to be here and now we can't imagine life without her.  Everything happens for a reason.

For a street cat Lucy's adapted to life indoors pretty quickly.  She's a cling on.  This is her regular position.  She wants to be on our laps every moment of the day.  Its become a bit of a problem especially when trying to work.  She'll stay on your lap for hours or until you pick her up and move her.

From sleeping in the bushes to sleeping in our bed - she's lapping up the luxury.  If ever she isn't on one of our  laps, she's on our bed.  She looks almost regal in this shot, which is funny because she really isn't at all.   Her nose was badly bruised and scraped up from her days on the 'street'  but its healed nicely now and she's put on some pounds.

Although I am insanely head over heels crazy about my older cat and this new little one (they are my *babies*)  I vowed when I started this design blog I would  keep my crazy cat pictures to a minimum.  But I do feel that pets are one of the most important elements that make a house a home.  This little one is the newest addition to our home and as you'll see in an upcoming post she's the reason behind many design decisions and changes we'll be implementing into the reno plans.  

All Photos by:   Carol Reed

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Beautiful Old Things

Blue & White antique fruit plates.

Our new old house in Nova Scotia will give me an opportunity to explore some of my personal passions with regards to design.  My preferences and tastes always include some traditional reference or vintage nod, even in contemporary spaces.  This is the oldest house I've ever owned  (read the first post about the house here) so I'm excited about embracing its humble character and creating a home where my passion for all things old, simple and rustic can be indulged while at the same time provide a beautiful contrast to some of the modern things I love.  I've had some antique pieces in storage for quite some time that finally will have a place to fit in, and my small collections can start to grow, like my blue & white pieces.  I picked up almost a dozen of these antique blue willow fruit plates (above) last month in a local antique shop to add to my small collection.  

Dining Room Ceiling

During demolition we discovered the house was older than we first thought based on the construction which is all timber beams, notched and pegged.  I'm in love with the structure and we're planning on leaving the wood beams (ceiling joists) in the living room and dining room exposed (previously covered up with layers of plaster and acoustic tile).  They were really really rough, including bark.  After the demo crew finished up, BF did a bit of work scraping them down and this is what they look like now. The question of whether to paint or not to paint has yet to be decided.

Square nails removed from window casing.

When the casings around the windows were removed, these rusty square nails were pulled out with them.  We figure there are a few hundred more in the house but I've put these ones in a mason jar for safe keeping until I come about a way to display them.  This type of square nail was pressed or cut by blacksmiths as opposed to hand forged and were commonly used between 1820-1910.  

Original Gothic Window/Door in Dormer

The house is a gothic carpenter style and the front of the house features a high peaked dormer with a gothic window in the centre of the dormer.  The window is actually a door which leads out to the porch roof.  On the inside its located up on the second floor hallway opposite the stairwell.  We're opening up the ceiling and eaves all around the dormer to expose the peaked ceiling and create a nook in this landing area but we're going to maintain as much of this original window as possible.  I love its leaded panes and peaked arc.

Spot sanded original floor boards.
The number one most thrilling discovery was that the house's original wide plank wood floor boards were all still in tact, hidden under carpet and vinyl.  We peeled back layers of flooring and plywood sheeting to reveal very thick, very long, wide original floor boards throughout the entire house.  I had suspected they were there but to actually confirm this was a total high,,,,a few places will need some patching/shifting around of boards and they all need to be sanded down but I'm ecstatic about this discovery.  We've spot sanded a few areas to get a peek of what the wood will look like, they'll have lots of character from knots and because they're face nailed they also have visible nail heads for added goodness (which all need to be recessed before sanding!).

Barnboard walls in our barn.

There's no shortage of old wood in this house.  We've pulled dozens of old wood boards out of the attic space which were just laying around loose and have them stored in the barn for use in the house reno. Some of the boards are up to 20"in width and 16' long.  Incredible sizes.  In the barn we can see some of the same wood was used in its construction. The photo above shows the barn board cladding on the barn walls, you've probably seen loads of faux antique barn board around, but this is the real thing.  I love the texture and patina.

Modern chair and barn board.
I noticed that everything looks great against barn board.  Currently we're storing most of our furniture in the barn including most of my office furniture and I can't help but get excited when I see the modern lines of these chairs against the rustic boards and how this space will one day transform into my studio.

Modern furniture in the barn.

All of these beautiful old things are driving the design direction for the interior renovation, I'm just letting it lead me along where it so naturally wants to go -  I'm psyched about seeing the old bones of this house brought back to modern life.

All Photos by:   Carol Reed

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Changing Times

I started my last post by attempting to explain my recent prolonged absence from the blog and declaring I was finally back and ready to just jump back in where I left off!  Only a few short hours after posting that, things changed.

The Fall is all about change.  Its unquestionably my favorite time of the year because of its sheer beauty and the fact that its always signified great changes and new beginnings in my life over the years.  This year has been no exception.  My recent lack of blogging was a result of one of the biggest changes in my life - a move to a new province, a new house, a new lifestyle.

There are those changes in life that you initiate and changes in life you have no control over.  My decision to move away was completely my own but one that came with sacrifices.  It would be the first time in my life I was going to live away from my family and friends.  Sacrifices.  My Mom took this news the hardest as I'm her only daughter - I reassured her I would be returning to Toronto frequently and that she'd see me often.   So here I was, the moving truck just left and we were finally semi-settled in our temporary living arrangements ready to begin a renovation to our new old house.  Ahhh, a chance to breathe and catch up with the blog.

Shortly after publishing my last post I received one of those phone calls that you never want to get, a phone call that changes your life forever.   To receive that phone call, the news that my Mom had suddenly passed away, while being so so far away from my family was difficult to say the least.

I never expected my first trip back to Toronto to be so soon and for such an ocassion.  During this past week with my family I couldn't help but notice the overwhelming beauty of the changing season around me.  I couldn't imagine a more beautiful day for that final fall drive to her resting place beside my Dad.  If anything, it was a magical setting that she would have loved.

For the most part I prefer to write very little about my private life here but something like this has such a lasting effect on ones perspective that in order to understand me and my point of view going forward I feel its relevant to share as I know I will reflect on this and the events of last week often, particularly the relation of home and family.

This is the last photo I have of my Mom and I together, taken last April when I took her to see the cherry tree blossoms in bloom.  I remember how happy I was that I had taken her as she'd never seen the cherry blossoms before. : )

Once again I've just arrived back in Nova Scotia, this time with a heavy heart and wishing that the last time I sat down to write something here that I had picked up the phone and called my Mom instead.  Without a doubt its going to be difficult this time to just pick up where I left off in all aspects of my world.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cottage Bungalow - Update

Kitchen in progress.

On a personal note its been a crazy month and a half for me as my life has been split between two provinces -  me in Toronto, BF in Nova Scotia, packing up one house and office in Toronto and moving into (while renovating!) another in Nova Scotia.  Between travelling back and forth, sharing one computer and not having any service on my web phone for the past 6 weeks meant that my blogging and tweeting was seriously neglected.  So now that we're finally both in one place (Nova Scotia) and we have most of our technical challenges sorted out,,,I'm just gonna jump right back in where I left off!

My last visit to the cottage bungalow project was a chance to oversee some of the finishing details and address any last minute oversights or changes that needed to be done prior to move in.   It definitely doesn't look like it from the photos below but the homeowners were scheduled to move in just a couple of weeks after this visit.

Kitchen in progress.

I love how the kitchen is flooded with sunlight, the extra high ceilings and the sculptural effect of the articlating light over the sink.  The fridge is still covered in protective plastic, the floors are still covered up and the back wall of the kitchen is awaiting its custom stainless steel hood and stainless back splash.

Kitchen in progress.

The custom side panels for the island were being installed later this same day, so far I was extremely happy with the proportions of the island.  We're contemplating raising the pendants one rod length - with threaded rods we can't get them exactly the height we want so we work with the rod lengths provided, here they're shown installed at their longest.  After the range hood is installed we'll make the final call.  You can view some concept sketches and the finish boards and the rest of the kitchen design in this previous post.

Kitchen sink and faucet.

This time I lost the battle of the kitchen sink.  Despite my preference and recommendation for a large single bowl sink in this layout, the homeowner wanted a sink and a half and there was no changing her mind.  Plan B was a custom designed sink and a half with small radius corners and deep bottoms, but this eventually was vetoed for an in-stock, ready made version, shown above.  In this close-up photo its deceiving but there is a wide 5"+  trough behind the counter to accommodate the low window.  The counter continues wrapping down the back of the kitchen sink and across to the wall/window.  Despite the off centre sink divider, I opted to install the faucet on centre with the overall width of the sink which would keep it on centre with both the window and the sink cabinet.  

Flooring throughout.

The floors throughout the entire house except for the washrooms are a beautiful wide plank, european white oak in a subtle grey wash with an oiled finish.  This was the first time I had actually seen any part of the floor uncovered since their installation and the only room I was able to admire them in was the master bedroom.  I couldn't resist taking off my shoes to get the full experience, they feel like butter under your feet!

Dining Room fixture.

A black dome pendant makes a modern statement in the dining room.

Hallway to Bedrooms.

The main hall that links the front living spaces to the bedrooms and bathrooms.  The long series of glass doors lead out to a large patio and flood the hall with light.  The white on white scheme continues here with a series of white semi-flush barn lights along the ceiling.  I love the pattern the sunlight creates on the floor.

Guest Bathroom in progress.

One of two guest bathrooms.  On this day the vanity had just been installed so you can still see a temporary support on the underside of it.  The bathroom is a good example of the pure simplicity the homeowners desired, the room is completely tiled (but one wall) in matte white 12" square tiles.  The shower drain is a recessed trough so the floor is continuous. A piece of original artwork to the left of the mirror will be the showpiece of the room, and a selection of a few well chosen accessories will give it the finishing touch.  Well that, and a pair of wall lights!  Although the end result looks simple, I can tell you this was one of the most time consuming bathrooms I've ever detailed,,,,the alignment of everything was painstaking. 

Master Bedroom.

The master bedroom has beautiful views to what will be the back garden.  You get a glimpse of the gorgeous grey washed oak floors and the effect of the oiled finish, its beautiful here with pale silver walls and crisp white trim.  One of my all time favorites, the Ball fan, (its one of 3 in the house) will help balance the air flow of the vaulted ceiling. 

Master Ensuite in progress.

The master ensuite is a continuation of white on white simplicity.  A floating quartz stone vanity counter spans the room from one end to the other, the same matte white 12" tile is used on floors and shower walls as was used in the guest bath.   The wall space above the tub is reserved for a colourful, large scale canvas painting by the homeowner.

Master Ensuite Vanity in progress.

This is the top half of a white lacquered storage cabinet being installed over the countertop, it will have a divider down the centre and a pair of tall doors, each one opening to either sink for his and hers.  A lower section of cabinetry with 2 deep drawers will be installed directly below this.

The view of the master bedroom as you exit the ensuite.

As I mentioned in previous posts about this project, the homeowners have an extensive collection of antiques and artwork (she's an artist) so the intent of this white on white, clean lined interior was to provide a canvas for their pieces.   I am thrilled with the progress thus far and how all the design details and decisions have turned out.  I can't wait to see the fireplaces completed and their furnishings moved into this new space, we will be filling in with some new purchases too.   If I don't get a chance to visit again before Christmas, my next photo update will have to wait until spring as these homeowners will be heading to Florida for the winter.  

All Photos by:   Carol Reed

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