architecture

IIDEX 2015 top 10 favourites

I recently attended the IIDEX show in Toronto. I have to confess I have not often been to this show in the past. For one reason or another it has not been on my design radar. It's a mistake I corrected this year and I'll definitely take note in the future. As a newly minted freelancer I'm looking everywhere for what's new and what's next. Here are my top pics from the show.

Can you believe this is Formica?  This item represents the convergence of two design trends I see coming on strong right now. First, black marble is the new white marble. Dark marble is happening everywhere you look, from cheese boards to cocktail tables to bathroom accessories. So dramatic and bold. I love it. (see also: green marble). Second, I think we are getting over the stigma associated with surfaces that are "faux". Sophisticated designers are seeing the wider applications possible with marble and other stone lookalikes and are embracing them. I think the main reason this is happening is that simulated stone patterns are getting more and more realistic -- and the fact that they're usually easier on the materials and install budget doesn't hurt either. 

Up next in surface news is this delicious business from Octopus. It's called Octoterra and is mad up of recycled galvanized metal over a wood base material. That warm copper colour is just beautiful. The mind reals thinking of possible applications. 

While there's nothing new about this surface -- it's good old soapstone -- I must admit it was my favourite surface find by a mile. I could. not. stop. caressing. it. Actually, I had to look up a few times to make sure no one was noticing my soapstone love-in. Soapstone is a silky-smooth matte surface that's perfect for kitchen counters or sinks. That's actually a dream of mine -- someday, some kitchen in my life will have it! Most people think of it as very soft and prone to wear. But the Brazilian varieties are quite durable. While we have it right here in Canada, that variety is actually the softer type (think Inuit carvings) and isn't suitable for counters. 

The folks at Secto Design of Finland brought their A-game and a whole bunch of very cool pendants. Love the ones that are nipped in at the waist a bit -- that's a new shape in the light pendant world.

And still in lighting, this little innovator is actually a bluetooth speaker and light combined. And it's battery operated, so grab it by the handle and bring it outside with you. The Uma from the Pablo Lighting/Lightform booth is a super chic camp lantern. I like it and I need it for our screened porch in Prince Edward Island.

This installation knocked my socks off, and I see it won a Gold Innovation Award so clearly I wasn't the only one left sockless. It was in the Euro-Line Appliances booth and is called the Kompakt kitchen. Is it ever! In front of your eyes above is laundry, sink, cooktop, dishwasher and refrigerator all in the tiniest footprint. Truly amazing!

Remember I was saying something about dark marble...Well, here we go. Great coffee table from Casa Life

If I had been handing out awards, this would have won Most Beautiful Piece of Furniture. It's the Ramen chair by Marc Weersink. It was part of a special exhibit of items made from the bumper crop of ash available in Toronto now. The artistry in this piece is astounding. The curves, joinery, the way the grain is showcased -- all stunning. And the finish was silky silky smooth.

The Cavern table was also part of the ash wood feature and is made entirely out of reclaimed ash.   It seems very simple from the top view with its main feature being the highly figured ash grain. 

But closer inspection of the table reveals this interesting design where the legs meet the top. The info sheet explained that designer Mark Pylypczak was inspired by the pillar supports in a local industrial building. I had a little Oh Yes, Clever moment when I read that. I have been in countless photo studios that feature similar pillar construction. It makes for a graceful transition point when applied to a table. 

While the show did seem like booth after booth of surfaces and "hard" design elements, I was pleasantly surprised by this wallcovering featured in the Fogo Island Collection booth. If you don't know about the architectural gem that is the Fogo Island Inn then you've been living under a rock. But you don't need to go to Newfoundland to experience some of the design wonders it has to offer. The Fogo Island Collection includes furniture and assorted decorative elements that have been commissioned by the Inn but are available to purchase. This stylized acorn/oak wallpaper in a small scale print was a welcome note of softness and pretty on the show floor. I think it would be a lovely powder room, entry or nursery paper. 

#AustinSuite

This is it. Our new home. This weekend we got the keys and efforts to put our stamp on it before moving in kicked into high gear. But first things first, the hashtag above. I'm calling it the #AustinSuite because there's just something about the word condo that I just don't love. It's just so meh. I actually prefer the word apartment and think it perfectly approriate so I may go ahead and use that. I tell you one word I won't be using in conversation or in print: unit. Yuck! Hate that. So inhospitable. 

Two things I do find hospitable about our new suite, which you see in the photo above, are the view of mature treetops and the real wood parquet floors. These are two of the benefits of buying into an older building. Ours is circa 1987. The trees are so wonderful. Many are evergreens, which is great since we will enjoy the privacy they provide all year round. And I can imagine how gorgeous they will look after a fresh snowfall in the winter. There are just enough deciduous trees to let us watch the seasons change from the window. I'm certainly happy to live with one less yard and garden to tend, but I'm so pleased to still be able to call a heavily treed nieghbourhood home -- not an easy find for every condominium purchaser.

And praise be for those parquet floors. Honestly world, I shouldn't really say anything against laminate floors except, well, they just aren't for me. And ALMOST EVERY CONDOMINIUM HAS THEM. When Mr. A and I were first hatching this plan I was euphemistically referring to our new home as a "white box in the sky". How prescient of me. Today we completed coat one of Benjamin Moore Oxford White on the walls and the lovely parquet will be next on the whiteification list.

As soon as I found this photo of an apartment for sale near Gramercy Park in New York and pinned it to my secret #AustinSuite Pinterest board I knew that a complete envelope of white was exactly the plan. I'm lucky to have a husband who gets that. Plenty of people I have told about it have recoiled in horror at the idea. It's a bit hard to tell from the size of this pic but this floor is indeed old school parquet that is painted white. And what a difference to the sense of space and light and airiness. The Scandinavians totally get this -- the English too. Our parquet has that solid feeling underfoot that hollow-bouncy noisey laminate never will. When it's painted we will still get a faint sense of the pattern of the parquet underneath. And I so hope the paint wears away in traffic areas to give it an aged look. I'm also hoping that painting everything white will solve another prob you'll see in the first photo: skimpy baseboards. Those things are pathetic. But I have so much on my plate right now I'm picking my design battles. Maybe later for a baseboard upgrade. For now, make them disappear with paint.

This is the bedroom. The whole place was this baby boy blue. Mr. A kept calling it purple. Sometimes he's design savvy but sometimes his Y chromosome shows when it comes to recognizing colours. Blue, purple, whatever you call it - it had to go. See how much more visible the little racing stripe of a baseboard is when the floor, trim and walls are all diff colours. Also, the perimiter of the room is defined so you see its proportions.

Here's the same space after one coat. I even kinda like the honey tone of the floor when the walls are white. But white on all surfaces will fool the eye into not knowing where floor stops and wall starts. Perfect. My master plan unfolds...

How did I choose Oxford White? Well, funny you should ask because believe it or not I got the idea when working on this issue of House & Home called Ask A Designer, which is on newsstands now. That place on the cover is the former home of my H&H colleague Joel Bray. The walls were Oxford White. Most of the walls in the house we sold are Cloud White (also Benjamin Moore). It's much warmer and creamier than Oxford White. Around the time I was working on this issue I got thinking about making the switch at home to a crisper, more modern white (yes, white to whiter). Then we chose this cover. Not long after that Mr. A and I decided to make the move. I knew then what colour I wanted the walls to be in our new place -- even before we started looking! So ya, white paint is a thing I think about and consider and discuss at length.

All of this said, I think I'm going to choose a slightly different white for the foors...

Lord, I think this could be the most boring blog post of all time. Forgive me for being out of practice. If you've made it this far, thanks! And do come back because there is so much more to tell.

For instance, here is the kitchen. Maybe looks harmless enough, but it's such a bag full of design crimes. I have a complete overhaul planned. So follow me on Instagram and Twitter and come on back here for the full scoop. 

 

less, but better

 

Hello friends. Dropping by to tell you the big news. Some of you may have gleaned from some of my social media posts that change is afoot for the Austins. No, we aren't moving to Tweed or PEI, as some have asked, but yes, we are moving. We are very excited to be embarking on the new adventure of making a home for ourselves and our small dog in a condominium on the West side of the city in the Swansea neighbourhood. (I'm quite superstitious about numbers and names and love the sound and feel of Swansea. Hopefully the reality will measure up.)

After the questions about where and what the place is like (more on that in future posts), most leap right into Why? Today I quickly answered that question with "This winter." Shoveling, cleaning cars of snow, shepherding our home though a potentially damaging (though thankfully not) ice storm...it was a tough one. But the fact is, we've been talking about this for quite some time. Long before this winter. It's part midlife crisis, partly the realization of what really matters after having experienced health crises and loss, partly just time for a new property adventure.

We are in the thick of it now. Prepping a house for sale ain't an easy breezy reality show. It's hard work, and it's a rollercoaster of emotions. There is no magic crew of people that sweep in to tart things up and boost your selling price by thousands. It's the two of us and a helpful neighbour or friend pitching in here and there to make this pretty little jewel shine. I really really love this house. Leaving it will be difficult. But I'm very sure this is the right time and the right thing to do. I'm very excited about what lies ahead. Here's a fun fact: the new condo is actually larger in square footage than the main floor of our house. That said, the basement here doubles that livable space and, take my word for it -- it's FULL of stuff. Or at least it was until last weekend when we did our first push to declutter and sort and purge and edit and organize and pack. 

I can't wait to tell you more about the new place. I redesigned the entire kitchen and priced it out before we even put in our offer, since a complete overhaul was a must in my books. Another fun fact: I will be replicating the IKEA Applåd kitchen from this house for the new place with just a few tweaks that make it right for time and place. I'll fill you in on all the plans, but right now I'm obsessing about what type of faucet to go for. In the runing are: 

1. keep it simple, modern, low profile and in a timeless finish like chrome.

2. matte black. mmmmm, matte black. yum. but too trendy? 

3. something sexy in polished nickel -- all time fave finish. Forever. Always. (BTW, shared today at an industry lunch that brushed or satin nickel are on my NO NEVER list. Loathe those. Partly because normcore. Partly just, ewwww. No. Never. Ever. Not for me.)

4. an old salvaged faucet in copper or brass with heaps of patina. This is the only way I'd go into the warm metals for a faucet -- authentic, old, beat to hell. Could be very cool with an über modern kitchen. Husband is not convinced...

Meanwhile, to wrap up, here's a note about the title of this post:

I stole it from one of the people whose work I have been studying to help with this transition. "Weniger, aber besser" is a guiding principal of German designer Dieter Rams. Do you know is work? Yes you do. I didn't even know until I started researching it that I actually own some of it (and if you own any Apple device you own some of his aesthetic. It is widely agreed that Apple designers borrowed from his vision and it doesn't take a design genius to see the parallels.)

Here's our Dieter Rams original. We received a Braun Aromaster coffee maker as a wedding gift. Love it. 

In 1976 Dieter Rams made a speech in New York urging designers and consumers to take responsibilty for a world of finite resources. Here's the killer quote that I've been mulling over:

“I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk.”

You can download the whole speech in a pdf link on the Vitsoe site.

And if you need any more convincing of the enduring brilliance of Dieter Rams, here he is in his own home with his wife Ingeborg Kracht-Rams. I mean, come on. Could these two be any cooler?? No. They could not. See more of their house here. I may need to propose to Kevin that we henceforth clothe ourselves only in grey, white and black.

So, stay tuned for more news here, on the Twitter and Insta. And if you know anyone who's looking for a darling bungalow with the coziest real wood-burning fireplace, have them contact our lovely realtor, Peter Lamy.

buddy, can you spare $49.5mil?

This, my excellent blog reading friends, can be yours or mine for the cool listing price of $49.5million. It is the extraordinary Water Mill, NY house of Nine West founders and gajillionaires Vince and Louise Camuto. Despite it's insane size (22,000 sq ft) I find it to be a total dream. The interiors are by Louise Camuto and Carol Egan. Nicely done. The house has heaps of grandeur yet still manages to look relaxed and inviting — that's no mean feat.

Enjoy this tour...

Super dreamy kitchen!

Just take a gander at the detail of the edge profile of the marble counters...amaze.

Blueberry waffles and mimosas anyone?

A little bit of Canada representin' in the media room as the sofas are by our very own Montauk sofa (don't be fooled by the New Yorky name, Montauk is Canuck).

The formal dining room has a decidedly Gustavian feel, perhaps because the lady of the manor is an ex-Miss Sweden. Also, masterful photo styling here by Howard Christian - hat tip to you, sir. That tree branch in the background...makes the shot.

Aaaaaaaah. Cashmere robe, a must.

oh. my. heart.

The story of the full renovation was published in the July 2013 issue of Architectural Digest, with these stunning photos by Scott Frances and styling by the aforementioned Mr. Christian.

Check out more deets on the real estate listing at Curbed Hamptons and Sotheby's 

PS, this marks my return to the blog...I hope.

my dream house

Now, don't get me wrong, I consider myself to be quite fortunate. It's true that Mr. A and I call 3 different properties home. When I say it out loud, or if it just happens to come up in conversation, it sounds wildly extravagant - like we hang with Conrad and Babs and Galen and Hils. We don't. During the recent Sandy/US election news cycle there was a joke Twitter account for Mitt Romney and one of the tweets was: "Those in Sandy's path, now is the time to evacuate to your 2nd or 3rd homes." I chuckled at the pretension and then thought...oh, wait...

While our "portfolio of properties" is far from Romneyesque, I love each one. But I do still dream of other types of properties and wonder if one day I might call one of them home. Call it an occupational hazard. Among my fantasies is a Haussmann-style Paris apartment, a mews house in any S or SW post code in London (actually, any place in London), a raw loft space anywhere, a converted barn by the ocean. And last, but not least by any means, is a centre hall plan stone house. So you can imagine my goosebumps when I clicked the Twitter link to this beauty posted by fellow lover of smushy-faced dogs and realtor, Douglas Hotte.

Hello gorgeous!. Here are the deets:

 

This Spectacular Rare Century Stone Home Built In 1861 With Newer High Efficiency Geothermal Heating/Cooling On 5.8 Acres In Northumberland Only 90 Min To Gta. 3 Plus 1 Bedrooms, Very Large Principal Rooms, Grand Foyer, Deep Windows, Built Ins, Servants Staircase, 2' Thick Stone Walls! Private Side Porch, Original Plank Flooring, Double Car Garage, Drive And Garden Shed.

Price: $529,000

 

I die. This place is located in the charming town of Warkworth, ON, 90mins from Toronto and also just a hop, skip and jump to my family members in Peterborough and Oshawa. It comes with a John Deere tractor. Please join me for a tour. 

Looks like there was some sort of portico on it at one point. Love the front door colour. Sad to see the gothic window replaced with a combo of arch-top shutters and a rectangular window. Getting the right window in there would be job 1.

A charming private side porch with a gravel walk. The perfect spot for tea, hot or iced depending on the season. 

Those windows, that stone.

Simple. Perfect. 

They could throw in that high boy, too! Handsome devil.

The room needs a pair of wing chairs or old leather club chairs by the wood stove. Done and done.

Upstairs landing for the main stairs.

I love old things but a clawfoot tub with a shower - been there, done that, not a fan. Almost always leads to a case of "attack of the shower curtain." But I'd endure it to live here.

One of the 2 secondary bedrooms. A bit museumy but look at those bones!

Et voila, le Master. It's a whopping 25ft by 16 ft. Amazeballs.

 And this little treat in the corner - the secondary staircase, which leads directly from the master bedroom down to the main level. 

A home office located on the main floor to the right of the entry. Needs books, books and books. 

And so my lovelies, by now are you thinking, hmmm, where's a photo of the kitchen? That's the most exciting part of this house. Because, you see, the answer is that no photos of the kitchen are posted. You know what that means in the real estate world: the kitchen is a wreck and/or needs a complete re-do. To me, this is the home's ultimate enticement. Cast your eyes upon the floor plan:

There exists an odd excuse for a kitchen in the back left corner of the main floor. But of course that simply wouldn't suffice. This home is crying out for the modern country kitchen of my dreams. It needs the Plain English treatment tout suite. Without a single doubt I am the girl for this design job. Truthfully, I have already begun the design in my head. I may or may not have started a private board in Pinterest devoted to it...

And for a little icing on the cake, here are the vistas:

To see the full listing or to buy this for me for Christmas à la Miracle on 34th St., please see the featured listings section of Caldwell Banker rep Douglas Hotte's web site.