Category Archives: Toronto

tips for a functional kitchen

When designing a kitchen, good space planning and a functional layout are imperative.  Of course, aesthetics should always be top of mind but next is functionality.  For those who know me, you know that I am a practical person and I really appreciate functional things.  So kitchens really pique my interest.

Today I had the pleasure of spending 6 hours in a kitchen showroom.  I know – this may sound like a nightmare to some – but I enjoyed every second of it.  What’s not to love about surrounding yourself with gorgeous kitchens, whether they be modern, traditional, or transitional?  When you are looking at fine craftsmanship and beautiful and functional layouts, it is easy to imagine yourself working in such a kitchen.

The kitchen above is a prime example of an aesthetically pleasing and functional L-shaped kitchen. And although there are many lovely facets of this space, what I really want to show you is how they dealt with the corner because it really demonstrates how a potentially awkward corner can be made oh-so-functional if the kitchen is well designed:

Exhibit A (above) – Initial thoughts: upper cabinets extend vertically right down to counter and horizontally to the far wall.  There are two doors….hmmm….hello door in face.  And below the counter it looks like we have a great big corner cupboard. Sigh.

But wait! There is hope:

Exhibit B (above) – a bi-fold door disguised as two regular cupboards!  Now you can easily reach all the way in to access dinnerware and you don’t get smacked in the face. Ingenious.

Exhibit C (above) – Le Mans trays which allow you to easily access and use that corner space effectively. Solutions like this make me happy!

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with more details on how you can make a kitchen more functional. I’ll keep those tidbits to myself and my future fabulous kitchen (or yours, if you want me to help design it).

If you are here just to see pretty things, let me suggest you take a look at the Paris Kitchens website (the lovely establishment I visited today), visit my ‘kitchens to covet‘ over on Pinterest, or check out some of these older posts:


(images: d.simpson @ Paris Kitchens)

2011 Princess Margaret showhome

Yesterday my Mom and I drove out to Oakville to attend a “Design and Decorating” talk with Lynda Reeves of Canadian House and Home. Sadly, because I was traveling with my Mom, we were late and we missed it (sorry Mom, gotta tell it like it is). It wasn’t time wasted though, since we were still able to tour an absolutely stunning 3.9 million dollar home – the grand prize in this year’s Princess Margaret Welcome Home Sweepstakes. (fyi – Princess Margaret Hospital is one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world, located here in Toronto)

Inspired by wine country and European-style villas, this 6,800 sq/ft home was exquisite top-to-bottom. I was a little snap-happy so let me take you through…..

Left (above) – a stucco facade with so many windows. You know it is going to be flooded with light inside.

Right (above) – a mature,tree-filled backyard. The patio is simple and understated. Light the lanterns, bring out a bottle of wine and a blanket, and you’re set for the evening.

Left (above) - not just a wine cellar, but a whole wine room! Not featured in these pics: 4 wishbone chairs around a wine-tasting table.

Right (above) - the laundry room is to die for. Laundry on one side, this expansive desk on the other, and a HUGE island in the middle. I would not mind doing any chores in here.

Left (above) - herringbone floors in a natural finish. Yum Yum. I also love the leather butterfly chairs. I can imagine a huge chunky thick rug moving into this living room in the winter.

Right (above) - I love this print by Toronto-based artisit Daniel Schneider. (you can purchase other prints in his Chandelier Series from Art Interiors – I think I saw this or a similar piece hung on a condo wall next to a dining table where there was no wiring for a real chandelier….great idea)

Left (above) - mustard cabinets, dark honed counter tops, travertine floors, ultra-high end appliances, and a French-country feel makes this kitchen a winner. Not with everyone though – as I was taking in every inch a number of other visitors came through and exclaimed, “Ugh! How 1920′s”…”I hate this colour”….”No, no, no”. Well, to each his own I guess. I bet they had no idea how much this kitchen cost.

Right (above) – a little breakfast work area – room for the espresso machine, toaster, a quick zap in the microwave, and open shelving to display your kitchen pretties.

Left (above) – one of the main things I liked about this house was the blend of traditional and modern. A prime example, this Bauhaus bench and modern art in the foyer, seen as you pass by into the traditional dining room and kitchen.

Right (above) – another fine example of the marriage of traditional and modern- the framed display cabinets (hardware showing which is a traditional design feature) and a modern sectional.

Left (above) – here you can see how much light floods into the home. Beautiful sconces flank the windows and I really really liked the iron work on the stairs.

Right (above) – an elegant little nook. I believe this would be the storage location for coats, as it was around the corner from the entryway. With 6,800 square feet you can afford to waste this kind of space.

Left (above) – an elegant bed and the linens were gorgeous.

Right (above) – the window treatments throughout the home were lovely. Many of the room use these seagrass Romans with decorative panels. This room had burlap drapes which was interesting.

Left (above) – this was the Master bedroom which, to be honest, I found under-whelming. By the time I reached this bedroom I was feeling like I over-dosed on Restoration Hardware. So much unfinished wood, linen, and burlap which really emphasized the rustic feel, but overall it was a bit too much. I really liked the rug though, it was so cozy on my bare toes and I was pleasantly surprised to see it was from West Elm. Seriously considering this rug for my living room now.

Right (above) – another blend of traditional and modern in the Master ensuite. The shower-made-for-two featured was a sleek glass walk-in (no doors). And look at that deep soaker tub. Oh yes.

Left (above) – this was the second kitchen. Kidding. This was the garage!

Right (above) – look at that organization! This special grooved paneling allows you to hang hooks and baskets where ever you need them. Ingenious.

That concludes your personal tour of the 2011 Showhome. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! If you’d like to see more, hop on over to the Canadian House and Home website where you can see a bunch of video tours and more photos.


Today, cancer affects us all. Current estimates indicate that 40 percent of women and 45 percent of men will face some kind of cancer diagnosis, so we must accelerate our mission to: CONQUER CANCER IN OUR LIFETIME.

To support Princess Margaret Hospital and to help conquer cancer, click HERE.



(images: d.simpson)

spotted at l’Atelier

One of my favourite shops in the Rosedale-Summerhill area is l’Atelier.  To quote Toronto Life -  “a stroll through this decor shop feels like touring the estate of an eccentric wealthy aunt who’s retired to the French countryside and filled her home with keepsakes from her world travels.” So true. The furniture and accessories are well-curated and the scented candles that always seem to be burning create a comfortable vibe that make me linger just a little longer than my wallet would like.

The last time I popped in, it was just just a few days after posting about the curiosity of sheep in interior decor.  Low and behold, what did I find at l’Atelier:

Groan.  I was too busy chuckling to myself and snapping this photo that I forgot to check the price tag. Darn. Anyway, I’m sure it was way more than I’d ever spend on a faux-barn animal for my home…

ladies who lunch

Be forewarned, today’s post may be a little self indulgent. But I am still on a high from my amazing day and want to share the details with you….

I took a vacation day!  Nothing like a little sunshine and plans with great friends on your day off. Here’s what went down:

1. A couple girlfriends and I sat in the CityLine studio audience. It was Thursday “Home Day” which (of course) is my favourite day of the week. So fun!  If you live in Toronto or plan on traveling here, definitely try to get tickets.  Tracy Moore is so charismatic and energetic, and gosh does she look good!  I can’t believe she had her second baby less than a year ago.  Amazing.

(Melanie, me, Tracy Moore, Whitney)

2. Next, we headed to Terroni for lunch. Hands down, it’s my favourite restaurant in the city. I know some would disagree but I love southern Italian and the place holds a lot of nostalgia for me.  Following fresh bread, spaghetti à limone, cappuccino, discussion on babies, homes, decorating, and maybe some gossip, we were satiated and ready to get our shop on.

Oh! We ran into Sarah Richardson on the way out of Terroni. BTW-she looks way younger in person. Très fab in a short tailored dress.

3. Next up was a visit to the Tonic Living warehouse for some fabric for my friend and client, Melanie.  After several failed attempts with other fabric choices, luck was on our side and we found just what we were looking for. You can hop over to Melanie’s blog (Nested Organizing) for a sneak peak of this project -her home office. While we are on the subject of fabric: if you are looking to make curtains, pillows, baby bedding, quilts, or anything else that is crafty and requires fabric, check out the Tonic Living website. A great selection and very reasonable prices.

4. Stopped at Starbucks for a non-fat mocha frappuccino. Yummm.

5. Shopping along Yonge St. around Summerhill. This neighbourhood is my old haunt so it was good to drop in on some of the best home décor shops in the city. If you are looking to do a little window shopping, drooling, or dropping some cash, go for a saunter along Yonge St. and check out these shops:

  • Belle Epoque, 1066 Yonge St.
  • Constantine Living, 1110 Yonge St.
  • Absolutely, 1132 Yonge St.
  • Chair Table Lamp, 1156 Yonge St.
  • Artifacts Emporium, 1170 Yonge St.
  • Boo Boo & Lefty, 1198 Yonge St.
  • Decorum Decorative Finds, 1210 Yonge St.
  • 1212, 1212 Yonge St.
  • L’Atelier, 1224 Yonge St.

6.  And last but not least, I picked up my son from daycare and headed to the local park.

A perfect day!

kimberley seldon’s designer market

There was no sleeping in this morning, as Kimberley Seldon’s Designer Market opened at 9 a.m.  Held in the historical Distillery District, the 10th annual event brought together 40 exclusive vendors, from fabric to jewelry, to chocolate.  The very best finds were the designer fabrics from Robert Allen, going for $10/yard – steal of a deal if you are there when the doors open.  Design savvy shoppers were also going nuts over the hundreds of pillowcases in all sorts of colours and styles.

I didn’t pick up any fabric, but I did grab a 4×6 indoor/outdoor rug  from macFABhome which was a super deal at $69.99 (reg. $249).  If you recall my post from a few weeks ago (prepping the balcony for summer 2011), I’ve been looking for the perfect outdoor rug and furniture set.  My plans for our balcony were sidetracked because I couldn’t find any of the rugs I liked.  Why do retail stores advertise one rug on their website and stock only certain items in store??  Anyway, the plans for the balcony are back on track with today’s great find.  Until the weather warms up, the rug will reside in our hallway:

Do you think our dog likes the rug? Not too sure, but she does look good sitting on it.   I did get a very strong affirmation of my rug choice, from Kimberley Seldon herself!  There I was, standing against a pole waiting for my Mom when the super-designer walked by and commented on my rug:  “That’s the best deal here, great choice!” With that confidence boost I decided to chase her down to introduce myself and get a photo with her.

A couple hours later, we walked out with this loot: a rug, a fabric-covered bulletin board, 2 yards of pretty damask fabric, and a vintage gilt frame…..

(minus the purse and glasses, my Mom added those for “visual interest”)

If you live in Toronto, the Designer Market is open tomorrow, Sunday May 1st from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (55 Mill Street, Toronto, ON.)

And if you haven’t read the 2nd issue of Kimberley’s online magazine, Dabble, check it out here.

stunning rental transformation

You must see this stunning rental apartment transformation.  I repeat RENTAL apartment! The Before and After photos speak for themselves:

Amazing isn’t it? A little cooperation from a landlord and a whole lot of style can go a long way. These photographs really highlight how a simple scheme of black and white can really make a big impact.  Notice that though the finishes are builder basics (i.e. black laminate counter top in the kitchen, white subway tile, etc.), the overall look of the apartment is anything but!  The tenant and very talented designer is Jessica of  The World According to Jessica Claire who is now a Design Editor at Style at Home magazine. Her apartment will be featured in the upcoming June 2011 issue and I can’t wait to see more. Congratulations to a fellow George Brown Interior Decorating student!

(design by Jessica Wak, photography by Stacey Brandford, images via Style at Home)

IDS 2011: overwhelmingly wonderful

Let me just start by saying the Interior Design Show was wonderful. And overwhelming.  I started with an initial walk-through to check out the lay of the land and to see what this year’s show had to offer. Then I ate a granola bar, listened to a panel discussion, used the washroom, took a big breath, and then back-tracked through all the exhibits.  In all fairness, I think I needed to do a third and fourth walk-through to do all the exhibitors justice.  But as I said, I was overwhelmed with all the amazing furniture, finishes, designers, and products represented. Now, if I or one of my clients was in the market for a high end kitchen with fancy-schmancy appliances, or a luxe bathroom with an uber-cool tub and hardware, I would have spent a lot more time looking at some of the fantastic new products on the market. However, that was not the case. I was just there to take it all in and get inspired. And inspired I was.

The Studio North portion of the show was my favourite (Studio North = representation of forward-thinking, edgy Canadian Design from right across the country).  Here is a round up of my favourite exhibitors….

Jean Willoughby is aToronto-based furniture and product designer is driven by a philosophy I appreciate and gravitate towards: purposeful, practical, functional, strong lines, and timeless neutrality. This curved concrete and wood side table was on display on the prototypes stage. It was very cool. Yet warm.  Loved the wood and concrete combo.

Textile designer Julie Moschenross is the creator behind the Manor 12 line. Each piece is hand printed and made here in Toronto. I loved the colours, patterns, and textures of the quilts and pillows on display.  Comfort, quality, and beauty.

Earlier this week I was introduced to the Carroll Street Woodworkers by a great post over on the marion house book so I was excited to see them at IDS.  Let me tell you, this booth was packed everytime I walked by (I walked by three times because I really loved their turned wood light fixture and had to check it out from all angles).  This desk is pretty darn cool too- cords run down the leg and quirky little buttons pop out to reveal hidden storage compartments for your pens.

My day job has nothing to do with design. At all.  When I am is my design groove I care not to think about “work” at all.  But I had to smile when I saw the designs of Nicole Tarasick today.  My client is a major Canadian airline and I’m accustomed to referring to the major Canadian cities by their airport code (Toronto=YYZ , Montreal=YUL, Vancouver=YVR, etc). Nicole’s mission is to handcraft textile goods with bold design, patriotic content and a minimal environmental footprint. Even though I don’t want to think about work when I am at home, I am thinking about purchasing one of her graphic pillows through her Etsy shop. They are just so Canadian.  I dig that.

This coffee table/dinette by TILT is an example of great design. Seriously. Hey teeny tiny condo owners, here’s a space-saving solution for you!

Montreal-based TOMA offers up everyday objects designed to infuse a little humour and whimsy into the hum-drum of daily living. How about this boot mat?  It’s 100x better than my Canadian Tire special. And offered at a very decent price at that ($45CDN). I also adore their hangars – designed to hold your coat and scarf at once.  Or better yet, just leave them hanging empty because their whimsical shape is just so pretty!

I’ll wrap this post up by declaring my delight about the Sarah & Theo Richardson “Sibling Revelry” space. I will admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the red-themed dining space but I was over-the-top-pleased that the main feature of the room was the same Holzberg Summerhill print I have hanging in my foyer. Yay me.

sarah 101

I’ve been eagerly awaiting tonight’s 9pm premiere of Sarah Richardson’s new series Sarah 101 on HGTV Canada. To my delight, it also aired today at 12:30pm. Lunchtime surprise!  The 30-minute episode is packed full of great design tips as Sarah and Tommy banter back and forth discussing the pro’s and con’s of each element. I always like Sarah’s practical approach to design, saving where possible (beautiful but practical tile in the foyer) and splurging where necessary (gorgeous upholstery on all the furniture).  I especially appreciate the segment dedicated to the choice of fabrics.  This is something that I feel isn’t focused on nearly enough in magazines and other online design resources.  While the finished living/dining room was a little too colourful for my taste I have to commend her use of fabulous fabrics and textures.  Finally, I am so happy that the HGTV Canada website posts a shopping guide for each episode, especially because all her design resources are here in Toronto!

(image: HGTV Canada)

Arctic Bookends

canadiana for your shelf

I first saw these Arctic bookends a few years ago in an issue of Toronto Life. Since that time, these oh-so-Canadian specimens have crossed my mind numerous times. At $180/pair I should really invest.

I would love to have such a unique pair gracing my shelves and keeping company with my mountain of books.

Created by Toronto-based designer Katherine Morley, the Arctic bookends are a throwback to the style of Lawren Harris’ icebergs. Her work will be on display at ‘Capacity‘ in January 2011.


{Lawren Harris, best known as a member of The Group of Seven, who during the early 20th century pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style and image of the Canadian landscape}

(images: 1-3 katherine morley, 4 collage by me)


goodbye Summerhill

Today is moving day.  Since our son is almost 10 months old now, we’ve outgrown our one bedroom loft.  Sigh. I will miss its ‘city-living’ appeal and especially the exposed brick walls.  We are moving north in the city to a brand new two bedroom condo.  On the bright side, the new place is a blank canvas just waiting for me to be inspired. Stay tuned.  In the meantime, I’d like to say goodbye to my favourite neighbourhood haunts…


Goodbye century old houses and the tree-lined streets

Goodbye dog park and the Summerhill LCBO

Goodbye decor shops on Yonge

Goodbye Terroni

……Goodbye Summerhill….


About a year ago I found this limited edition print in a local gallery. This is the Summerhill subway station, circa 1978.  Knowing we’d eventually have to move from the neighbourhood, I decided we needed to own this print as a reminder that one day we will return (when we have at least 1.5mil+ to buy a place….one day!)  For the time being, this print will hang in the foyer of our condo.

Photograph by Ben Mark Holzberg