design tv

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 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.

happy easter flowers!

One of the fringe benefits of my styling gig is getting to take home flowers after a shoot. Well, this weekend it is bumper to bumper blooms chez Austin thanks to back to back floral shoots. On Wednesday, our place was the location for a floral story schedded for the July issue of House & Home. I was working with the most talented Virginia Macdonald - what a treat. I cannot wait for you to see.


Then first thing Thursday morning it was down to 299 Queen St. W. in Toronto to The Marilyn Denis Show for a segment on spring floral arrangements. It felt like I did the segment in 30 seconds so I have no idea what came out of my mouth - HA! The whole team there is so great to work with. I must confess though, my fave aspect is getting my makeup done. It just makes me feel so pampered and I rarely indulge in such things on my own (which I realize is dumb).

I got most of the supplies for the segment at the Real Canadian Superstore. I popped by today and sure enough the place is stocked with potted bulbs, tons of mixed arrangements, and of course they always have great vases and other vessels. I like the white ceramics in the serveware dept. even better than the clear glass vases. And the best part - nothing I used was over $20. So if you haven't decorated for Easter yet, click here to watch the vid and then head out to the Superstore.

OK, now I'm off to make some bouquets to bring to my Dad and Mom and her nursing home buddies.

Joyeuses Pâques!

summer home with samantha pynn

photo: tim leyes

Hello friends, I know what I'll be doing this evening at 8pm - will def be tuning in to HGTV here in Toronto. Mercifully I'm assured there won't be any deck wars or parties being planned by bored rich housewives or melodramatic confessionals by homeowners who got duped by some evil substandard tradesperson. Instead it'll be my old pal Samantha Pynn and her merry band of cottage makeover experts bringing the pretty to the wilds of cottage country for season 2 of Summer Home. The commercials have me hooked already (as did season 1, which was hosted by Karen Sealy). And so clever of HGTV to air this show just as we are brushing off the winter cobwebs and dreaming of warm day vacay spots.

Sam and I first worked together years ago as we schlepped and styled our hearts out to make pretty pictures. Things I know about Sam include: She will break into song or dance at any moment - but especially the particularly stressful ones. She throws an excellent surprise birthday pancake party with portable burners in an office boardroom with a sprinkler system. She likes pink. She is a juice fanatic. She is a mixologist who can psychoanalyse you by your drink order.

I caught up with Sam recently and hit her with a few Qs to get to the soul of her cottaging self (partly because I know Sam as a city girl through and through, so I wanted some insight into this new side of Sam).

Margot: What is your Tim Hortons order?

Samantha: Peppermint Tea. You know that back in the day on location shoots I would eat all those donut balls otherwise known as Timbits, but I am cursed with gluten-intolerance.

M: Name your Top 5 road tripping tunes (I'm hoping for some Gloria Gaynor)

S: Well maybe not Gloria Gaynor, but you know that I love Laura Branigan's
"Gloria", as well as Kenny Rogers "Coward of the Country", Olivia Newton-John
"If You Love Me", Billy Idol "Dancing with Myself" and Neil Diamond "Forever in
Blue Jeans" Those are the big repeat offenders - but I have thousands of songs on my iPod.

I do have new music too. My brother is cool so he fills my iPod with Lana del
Ray, Little Dragon and Lykke Li.

M: Which one are you most likely to belt out in the car while driving north?

S: I honestly sing all of them. I mean all of them by myself like a big nerd.

M: Favourite Card game?

S: Go Fish!

M: Best Board game?

S: Scrabble - but I never play seriously.

M: Jet ski, canoe, or high speed power boat?

S: Dock

M: Favourite dockside beverage?

S: Green vegetable juice.

M: Sunrise or sunset?

S: Sunset. I'm not a morning person!

M: How does the whole process work for doing a makeover for the show?

S: I always ask the homeowners to pull together an inspiration file so I can determine their style. Next, I visit the space with my team and just start blurting out everything that's in my head. I can usually stand in a space and know where it's going within the first five minutes. We pull together a floor plan. Next, my team of talented design and construction experts starts working on the space. Seriously, it's an army of people working at warp speed. We have thousands of meetings, and emails and texts. It's so much work, but the reveal "the moment of truth" is always worth it.

M: What's a behind the scenes secret you can share?

S: Behind the scenes it's hard work and pure silliness! Colin Hunter our
contractor is an absolute crazy pants.

I've never met Colin but I do know some of the other amazing team members Sam worked with, including Malcolm Patterson, Joel Bray, Lauren Flanagan, Laura Fowler and the team at RTR Media. All the best in the biz. For a video peek behind the scenes, check out the You Tube channel (and don't miss the restaurant takeover episode):

So, check out to find out what time Summer Home will be on in your area. Or join me for the Twitter play by play in the Eastern time zone - 8pm!

Nathan Turner...or Kevin Austin?

Have you been watching Million Dollar Decorators? I've been lapping up every delicious minute of it, though occasionally it has been a little too much like watching my life go by. I'm no MDD, but I work with some (though not the ones on the show) and immerse myself in their work every day. There's one other familiar aspect to the show which has been revealing itself to me ep by ep. Um, I'm pretty sure Nathan Turner and my husband might be the same person. I mean, I've never seen them together in the same place be the judge:

Nathan Turner: boyish good looks, pursed-lip smile, sandy hair szhuszhed up in the front, short back and sides, prep style, sun-kissed complexion

Kevin Austin: boyish good looks, pursed-lip smile, sandy hair szhuszhed up in the front, short back and sides, prep style, sun-kissed complexion

A boy and his dog.

A boy and his dog.

Nathan's shop, Nathan Turner.

Kevin's shop, ChairTableLamp.

bowl at Nathan's shop.

bowls at Kevin's shop.

tole chest at Nathan's shop.

tole chest at Kevin's shop.

Milo Baughman at Nathan's

Milo Baughman at Kevin's

a table at Nathan's

a table at Kevin's...

I could go on.....

There are a few differences. Off the top -- Kevin is straight, which is great for our marriage. Kevin isn't a decorator per se, but he can more than hold his own on matters of design. I think Nathan might be a bit shorter than Kevin's 6ft 3in, but I don't know for sure. So, I'll be keeping my eyes on the MDDs and watching for more screen time for Kevin, er, I mean, Nathan, in upcoming eps....Meanwhile, if you ever see them in the same room, let me know.