barbara barry on beauty

photo: Mark Edward Harris for Traditional Home

I had the great good fortune to be among a small group of people to hear Barbara Barry speak about design recently at the Kravet showroom in Toronto. It is a pleasure I have had a few times before and one I will never miss if given the opportunity. Barbara is a gem. She has a voice like silk velvet. It's refined and soft and luxurious. She could read the dictionary and make it sound chic. In fact, I'd love to hear her read the dictionary. That night she was plucking from the stories compiled in her recent book Around Beauty. I had just rushed to the event after wrapping work on the high-stress all-hands-on-deck Trends issue of House & Home. So I was very amused when Barbara shared this pearl:


Beauty is always in. Ain't it the truth! An old tree, a peeling onion, a peony, pond scum (yes!) - these are some of the things Barbara finds beautiful. The evening inspired me to look back at my photo library to see those times when I have felt compelled to document a beautiful little moment with my iPhone.

This is a pile of coiled rope on the warf at Covehead, Prince Edward Island. That aqua colour is so pretty but I also love the mezmerizing pattern of swirls the rope makes. Layers and layers and layers.

Ferns ferns ferns. Always and forwever. I am so captivated by ferns. I snapped this pic on a bike ride between Morell and St. Peter's, also in PEI.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this guy while golfing last month at the course near our place in Tweed. He was pretty big - about 6inches long! Just look at that muddy green colour of his shell and the bits of red at the edges and some pale yellow too. And that pattern. Wow.

These are some stunning candycane beets I bought last week at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Can you believe how pretty!? My only disappointment with them is that the colour gets much more subtle when you cook them. But as Barbara says "Subtlety is always in."

This is a detail of an old fishing shack at Red Head harbour warf in PEI. I could stare for hours. I know, I'm weird.

Here's a little peek at one of my favourite secret spots. This is the wooded path behind our place in Tweed. It's where we walk the dog on Sunday mornings and I love watching the seasons change here. The colours and patterns and textures are magnificent: moss on rocks and a carpet fallen leaves (oak are my favourite) and pine needles. It's so peaceful here. Beautiful. 

red head harbour, prince edward island

I've been back about a week now and it has been day after day of challenges great and small  from lawn care to healthcare. What can one do but make a list, trudge forward, pray and hope for the best outcomes. That's the plan. Meanwhile, I was pulling together an edit of favourite photos from our recent escape and I was stuck by the incredible colours and textures in my shots of Red Head Harbour. It's a working fishing harbour at the mouth of St. Peter's Bay and is about a 10 minute bike ride from Whale Cottage. I took all the shots using my iPhone. Recently I'd been considering getting a better camera, but when I really think about it I'm just not that person. Heading out on a bike ride with Mr. A in shorts and a T I can slip my iPhone in my pocket, no probs. A big bulky camera and lenses -- fuggetaboutit. Could not deal. Please enjoy this little tour.

You know I have a thing for weathered cedar buildings. I wanted one of these fishing shacks as a bunkie at our cottage (oh, except they reek of low tide, whatevs).

Those are fins from blue fin tuna adorning this one. Amazing.

A billion barnacle-clad bouys.

Counting the days until our next visit.

ray staples: words of a designing mind

As most of you will already know, the great Ray Staples passed away recently. The world will be more beige without her. Ray was a shining light of interior design – and so much more – in Canada. I have been considering for these days since recieving the news what to write about Ray. But her family – the people who knew and loved her best – have already done a marvelous job at the writing. I hope you will read the post at the Ray Staples site and also the lovely tributes by her neice Elaine Loring, who took the photo above. 

For some inspiration, I went back and listened to a taped phone interview I did with Ray a few years ago and revelled in every word. I considered posting the whole interview but decided against that. I thought it might be a bit of an overstepping of bounds. Lord knows Ray was never one to be bothered by propriety, but still. Well, maybe it's just that I want to keep it just for me. 

Mr. A has been in close touch with Ray's son Kevan over the last few days, and through that contact this marvelous thing came into my possession.

Now, as a bit of a paper products nut I have owned special cards and paper that I have only used for very very special circumstances before. But this, this takes that to another level. What could I possibly write on a piece of Ray Staples' personal stationery? The idea came in a flash. Of course I would write Ray's own words. So here they are. Most of these are excerpts from the phone interview I did with her mentioned above, some are from in-person meetings. All are quintessentially Ray. 

And one last thought: If you feel inspired to share a story or comment about Ray, I hope you will hop over to the Ray Staples page to share your thoughts there. It has become a hub of great memories of a great lady!

Now, enjoy Ray! (be prepared - there's a lot.)


some more mentions of Ray. Some have repeat content but it's nice to read each person's own view, plus the comments. And don't miss the video of Ray herself!

My own previous post 

De tout, de rien

Summerhill Still Life Blog

Michael Penney Style blog

Quills Quotes & Notes by Rosemary Phillips 

Girl Meets Design 

In the Corners of My Mind

Dawna Jones Design

DOMINION MODERN\ Ray E. Staples from dominionmodern on Vimeo.

duchess of cambridge and lady mary crawley

Here are two characters whose wardrobe I watched in 2011. The other day a spontaneous chat broke out on Twitter regarding the merits of the Duchess's Christmas Day church-going ensemble. Weighing in were Rev. Daniel Brereton (@RevDaniel), our style-savvy representative of the Church of England; Meredith Heron (@meredithheron), designer, blogger, contrarian; blogger Makeda Saggau-Sackey (or another staffer tweeting from @TheDuchessStyle). The Rev, the blogger and I agreed that the Duchess's aubergine outfit was perfect for the occasion. Meredith – she of the acid green wedding dress ;-) was the lone dissenting voice. She felt the outfit too matronly for the young Duchess. Toward the end of our chat I remarked that I thought there was a whiff of Lady Mary Crawley in the Duchess's outfit. Lady Mary is one of the principle characters in the ITV/PBS series Downton Abbey. Judge for yourself. 

The Duchess of Cambridge, Dec. 25. Image from

Lady Mary Crawley (played by Michelle Dockery) in season 2, Downton Abbey.