Kitchen inspiration - take 2

You may have wondered if I was just all talk on the mini kitchen makeover? Yes and no! When you're a renter, the tendency is to proceed very slowly when making an investment in the space. Not to mention, in tight quarters, any project is going to be fierce disruptive, so needs to be timed and planned impeccably.

The original plan really relied on new floor tiles to inject personality and the cement tile I chose were completely on trend and would look great transitioning from the oak hardwood in the rest of my place. The problem is that tiling a floor is a huge investment (in practically every sense). Instead, I've decided to lead with paint, which is far cheaper and a job I can confidently do myself.

I've always loved sage green kitchens from Plain English - and this Devol kitchen has been in my inspiration folder for yonks, so that's a natural place for me to go. And I was doubly inspired by this kitchen over on Smitten Studio, which I'm shamelessly plundering for ideas. The brass hardware is the only on-trend decision I'm making, but I found a super affordable version at Home Depot so even if I hate 'em two year from now, I'll be okay about it.

This leaves countertops: Butcher block is still a compelling (read: very affordable) option. But I'm going to first investigate some marble alternatives. I found this great post on Studio McGee (a blog I've found so many useful posts on lately!) so have some research to do.

And what about the floors? Cheap again: I'm going to try an outdoor rug. They're made from polypropylene, so are very durable and washable -- ideal for a kitchen. I'm hoping this turns out to be a rental friendly option that I can live with (if not, no harm). Finally, to finish it off, plants galore, a shiny light fixture and warm wood accessories I already own to add dimension of warmth. I have to say, I'm feeling this scheme a lot more and - pending countertops - am a go on this!

Products: Hanging planter | Light | Marble | Paint: Pointing & Mizzle | Hardware | Rug | Walnut Slab | Mill
Photos: Plain English | Devol Kitchens | Sarah Sherman Samuel for Smitten Studio

Sunday best: Classics, updated

It's hard to argue with the classics: blue jeans, white shirts. Lately, I've been feeling pearl jewelry in a big way (which is lovely, since pearls are my birthstone). But, you know, I haven't gone twinset brigade on you. A glimpse of lingerie, some relaxed accessories keep the country club at arm's length.

It's really feeling like the end of summer now. The squirrels have started their squirrelly busy-work. I walked home wondering how they know the change in season from a break in the weather. But I shouldn't wonder, because I know it too in my own animal way. The smell of the sun, the blue of the night sky; the shift is palpable.

Last night's supermoon was very weighty for me. This has been an important summer for me, a great one even. And last night's moon made me rededicate to all the good choices I've made, to not lose sight of the real priorities. Perhaps that's why classics are on my mind too. No need to be chasing flimsy distractions...

Products: Formula X Sheer Strength from Sephora | Agnes Bra from Lonely Lingerie | Frame Denim jean from Net-a-Porter | Twin Pearl Studs Earrings from Satomi Kawakita | Elsa Peretti Pearls bracelet from Tiffany | Brett shirt from Equipment | Rose of No Man's Land by Byredo (not on site yet) | Sofie clog from Bryr | PB 0110 Black Leather Bucket Bag from SSeense


I've been all amped up this week with new ideas and ants in my pants to change a bunch of things. There's a scene in an old episode of Father Ted where Ted & Dougal have to clean the house themselves and they stand up all throwing shapes and punching the air, but don't know how to start -- and that's sort of how I feel: I'm full of gusto, but I'm not quite equipped to get going yet.

For instance, things are getting pretty desperate in the ole wardrobe: Everything is suddenly too big for me and, while I'm happy about that, I'm having a hard time separating wants versus needs. ( I suppose knickers and jeans that don't feel like nappies would be a good place to start. Ugh, but I really want to buy a pretty hat!!) And I'm in a similar space with my apartment; I finally have clear ideas about things I want to do, but am now coming to grips with practical realities and pacing.

You know, you work so hard to get to a place where you're emotionally ready to make a bunch of decisions and then you realize, oh it's not just about my emotional readiness. I need to save money and think about practical things and all that. And I know this is basic being-a-grownup stuff, but sometimes I'm just impatient and want to do everything at once (yes, I have my Veruca Salt moments, don't we all?!)

But the weekend is here and that's always a good time to settle down and have a glass of wine (or a smoothie treat!), enjoy the end of summer and calm my scrappy zeal.

Some links:

Horses Atelier F/W

Ahh! So excited for a new collection from my favourite Toronto label, Horses Atelier. I've had amazing luck with their pieces in the past, and these looks are so on point for me right now. I'm really feeling this mix of emerald green and aqua on a black background, with some strong textures thrown in for extra oomph!

Joseph F/W

Before I immigrated to Canada (more than 13 years ago now!) I splurged at Brown Thomas on a really basic Joseph top. Charcoal, scoop neck and long-sleeve, it was perfect for layering. That top is proof positive that sometimes a "splurge" turns out to be a saving, because it's still in my closet today and I still wear it beneath sweaters and dresses - very much as I imagined wearing it when I bought it.

When I moved to Canada, I was sad Joseph didn't have much a presence here. It had always been one of those brands that I felt was realistically aspired to. But, in recent years, the brand has had a resurgence that's put it back on my radar. And it's interesting how loyal I still am because of that one top and because of the way I used to run my hands over pieces I couldn't afford when I was in university.

Their fall collection is full of beautiful enveloping knits, shearling vests and clean tailoring that just makes me feel warm and cocoon-y just looking at them in a way that feels ultimately luxurious.

Rue Mag / Meagan Donegan

I love this home belonging to Heidi Caillier, spotted in Rue Magazine. But what caught my eye most was the gorgeous artwork in the bedroom by Meagan Donegan.

Love that sheep! Over on Meagan's portfolio, I found a lot more to love.

Sunday best: Early fall thoughts

I know, I know... don't be wishing away what remains of summer! But, fashion-wise fall is my favourite season and, on Friday when the temperature dropped a little, I got lured into browsing the shops for the season ahead. And it's a good 'un. I love all the suede and shearling (real or faux - your choice!), classic blue jeans, epic hats and those rich autumnal knits in shades of mustard and burgundy and all manner of grey.

I have to give kudos to Loeffler Randall this season too. This label has always been good to me for purses right in that perfect price sweetspot, and this season they've spoiled me for choice of pieces that I know would last and last.

Products: J Brand jeans from Net-a-Porter | The Runwell from Shinola | Dry Texturizing Spray from Oribe | Burgundy Leather Travel Case from Byredo | Avery Sweater from Aritzia | Ambra Lace Up Flat from Loeffler Randall | Joni Bag from Vince Camuto


Last night, I wrote a very long post that I'm not going to publish (yet?) So, today I'm writing a short post that I am going to publish. Oh, the logic of bloggers.

Even though it's been a hot and muggy week, there's something in the air signalling the end of summer. This year, I'll truly be sad to see the seasons shift, though I can never regret fall in Ontario for long. Still, I feel the need to eat as many peaches as possible and to squeeze in a few more lake swims before the summer expires. So, I'll be out and about this weekend, getting my summer savouring on while I can...

Some easy, weekend-y links:
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Yellow sofas (!)

I've been vaguely looking for a couch for some time. It's not an urgent need, nor top of the list. But it's such a big purchase, and informs every other small decision I make about my space, that it's good to have a general direction in mind. Recently, I wandered into Stylegarage to check out their selection. All their couches are gorgeous, but the new Margot really jumped out at me. And I surprised myself by really loving the yellow showroom model.

So I've been thinking about yellow sofas! And then I stumbled on this space featured on Oracle Fox. It's from The Playing Circle. And I'm feeling it.

Also, Jessica Helgerson put a yellow sofette in this divine kitchen. And Ben Pentreath (by Max Rollitt) has one in his Dorset parsonage home. I suspect these images have been buried deep in my consciousness for some time and they were unlocked when I saw the Margot. It's nice to surprise oneself once in awhile, I suppose!

Emerson Fry F/W

Although we're heatwaving here in Toronto, I've been thinking ahead to fall fashion a lot lately; mostly because I (truly) need to buy new clothes. To be honest, it's a little overwhelming. Because I need basics like underwear, jeans, tees etc. as well a investment pieces like a new winter coat. And I'm a capsule wardrobe kind of customer, so I'm really looking to assemble a select few pieces that have versatility and quality.

I like and trust Everlane for many pieces but I've always kept an eye on Emerson Fry as a source for basics-with-a-twist. Because much as I love a good standard, it can sometimes be difficult to fork out on something utterly basic... so I love that her pieces usually have a little stand-out touch without being too attention-seeking. Many of these pieces strike the perfect sweetspot of something I can integrate in a capsule but also fall for meaningfully.

Native Line | Justine Ashbee

Maybe I was born too early to be whole hog on the trend for wallhangings and macramé of recent years. Or maybe it's just my usual resistance to anything that strikes me as too quickly ubiquitous among a certain set.

Still, I'm capable of making exceptions and I think Justine Ashbee's Native Line stands out as something marked with originality and spirit. In her choice of materials and pattern, Justine's work is more than a footnote to a '70s trend — her work takes a new direction and I find myself drawn to it beyond blogger trends.

"I believe that every object you live with should be beautiful to you and have meaning to you. I put a great deal of research and energy into my work and want to infuse it with as much depth, profundity and meaning as possible." - via

Studio images are all by Robbie Lawrence for Freunde von Freunden / Zeit.
All other images from Native Line. You can visit the online shop here.

Sunday best: Fitness

This has been a good summer for me health-wise, and I'm determined to keep good habits going through the fall and winter. Most days, I run in leggings and any old tee. But I've been thinking of gearing up in a more stylish way - especially since (let's be honest) leggings and trainers are also "weekend wear" for me most of the time.

Some sources I've been drawn to include Michi (yay Toronto, and edgy and cool), Outdoor Voices (softer, with a touch of retro) and Live the Process (gotta love those one-pieces). I'm also trying to inspire myself to stretch beyond black, which is hard for such form-fitting clothes.

P.S. The Pacer app shown here is one I use (along with MyFitnessPal, a diet-tracking app it syncs with) to log both my steps (walking and running) and overall track progress against goals. I still occasionally have a moment of wonder when I think about all these things we can do with our phones!

Products: In Transit Muscle Therapy from This Works | Stretch Arm Pocket from The Running Room | Athena Crop in Blush from Outdoor Voices | S'well bottle | Ella earbuds from Frends | Pacer App | Nike Free 5.0 mesh sneakers from Net-a-Porter

Eight great planters

I'm in a plant mood. My orange tree is fruiting and my recently acquired ficus lyrata seems to be settling in. My weekly coffee table flowers have been replaced for now with a phalaenopsis orchid (though bedside roses are still a must!) And, naturally, with my thumb feeling this green, I start to think about planters. Here are eight I love.

I put my ficus in the basket you see here. It's not made for plants, but I lined it with plastic and added an extra deep saucer inside. The ficus doesn't like its feet to be wet anyway, so I usually water it and wait for it to drain completely before putting the pot back in the basket. I also like to top off my plants with moss. My citruses especially seem to love a little moss scarf, but mostly I do it because it's pretty.

Products: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Colouring outside the lines

I’m fond of telling my team that we shouldn’t be afraid to occasionally colour outside the lines of our content strategy. That, indeed, some of the best writing we’ve done has been precisely beyond the established and rote. Of course, as a newspaper section, we have a business to run and reader expectations and needs to fulfill — it can’t all be indulge-ever-whim-creativity. But there’s value for both writer and reader in the unexpected; a story about cars that’s really about relationships, for example.

It’s interesting that I’m such an advocate for colouring outside the lines in my professional life, because I struggle with giving myself permission to do is in my private life, or to live with my messier colourings after they’ve been made. I establish rules for myself and I feel like a hypocrite when I step outside these boundaries.

When I examine my life closely, though, I would say that I’m hypocritical in all kinds of ways. Perhaps we all are. I just bought a this purse form Zara, wholly aware that, oh hello Saint Laurent knockoff. And yet, I’ll squawk about people buying a fake tulip table at IKEA instead of hunting for a vintage Saarinen or licensed production. Should I just shut the up because I’m clearly a hypocrite? Or should I admit that this complex world we live in gives us so many choices, but also creates all kinds of competing desires that are sometimes challenging to navigate? Should we forgive ourselves a certain amount of hypocrisy?

These thoughts become even more complex when I dig deeper: Really, do I think the Saint Laurent is that much more ethical? I mean, $2500 more ethical? Or, do we know how Eero Saarinen might have felt about the popularization and democratization of design? I wonder sometimes if we’re not imbuing consumption with snobbery in the guise of ethical notions, and thereby participating in the notion that certain products are exclusive to a privileged few, except as a guilty purchase. Plus, on my salary it's not like this is really an either/or choice. And what I really want is neither: As a consumer, I want choice I can afford that doesn’t originate in sweatshops. I would happily have paid more for that Zara purse if it guaranteed that. But it would more likely end up in some male CEO’s pocket, if anything.

But my hypocrisy isn’t only about consumerism. I’m a vegetarian who sometimes eats fish. I sometimes/often have serious qualms about the industry I’m part of, though I contribute to its success. I rail against the objectification of women, but judge my own reflection from inside those beauty, fashion and "body" paradigms too. And there are things I do that I know I should feel conflicted about but somehow I don't get my panties in a bunch over: Starbucks coffee and Amazon books, being two.

I know each of those admissions will elicit judgement. I deserve that, having rattled on so much here about authenticity (not that I don't mean what I write about that too). Indeed, my admissions elicit such judgement from me too. I’ve been enough of a blog-reader to know that that’s how we read blogs, sizing each other up, admiring or disdainful. But, I suppose there's a chance they might also elicit, “oh, I’m relieved I’m not the only one!”

I have friends and acquaintances who ride high on the moral high horse. They’re mostly on Facebook, constantly railing against things (of course, we all do, but you know what I mean), they have “causes.” But there’s a sort of religious fervour to people who won’t embrace their own and other’s hypocrisy that freaks me out and alienates me. Maybe because I’m afraid how I rate in their eyes. Or maybe because the thought of living that way seems like the furthest thing from joy one could experience. But there’s also the high horse aspect itself; I mistrust it. Indeed, I mistrust all imperiousness, really. And I think holding up every one of your beliefs as if they're a categorical imperative is a limiting way to live.

I’ve also experienced how paralyzing such inelasticity can be. Being afraid of colouring outside the lines can stop you even picking up the crayon (I can’t help but think of Casaubon in Middlemarch - probably one of the most tragic figures in literature — compare/contrast with Mary Garth). And so I’m trying to be more comfortable with my hypocrisy, to not let it knot me up. Not in a glib 'whatevs' way, but to keep moving forward, to allow conversation to flow rather than having relationships that wither in cold judgement. I also think more about goodness (beyond the obvious big right-wrongs) as a quiet and unrecognized decision, not a loud chest-thumping declaration of superiority.

But there’s one more reason I think it’s important to admit and tolerate hypocrisy: we’re hypocrites if we don’t. And we’re essentially then lying about how good we really are, and what good really looks like. We’re presenting a sanitized, Platonic-ideal sort of goodness instead of a real-world, complex and erring kind. We’re presenting the world as clearly demarcated and people and decisions as easily judged. And if anything is, surely that is unkind, even deeply wrong.

Jette Creative

Sometimes, it's too easy to think that decorating is simply a matter of having good taste. That choosing the right light fixtures and upholstery to fit in a room is a qualification many of us can boast. But, of course, there's so much more to it than that. To conceive a space from a blank slate is a challenge that boggles my mind. And occasionally I come across a space that I love but would never even have begun to conceive, that I may even have vetoed on paper, and I'm reminded what real vision looks like.

This place designed by Jette Creative falls into that category. Seriously: Mind blown.


I meant to get back to posting link round-ups last Friday, but I had a day off and did other things instead, like brunching and sofa-shopping. So here I am on Monday, with some belated links to share.

  • This Ask Polly could have been written to me:
"Solving mind-puzzles is fun. I like it. But it's not living. Living is something else.
When you show up and you take in where someone is and you care without simply grappling for some "right" answer, that forges a connection. When you have a connection that's real, the other person naturally wants to give back to you as a friend.
This will be hard to hear: You and I don't always forge connections that are real. Thanks to the tangled mess of our histories, thanks to the ways we've overcompensated, we don't always connect. We SEEM to connect, but 90 percent of the time we aren't really connecting."

"If you ask me, the one reason why futurism as a discipline is so white and male, is because white males have the ability to offer the most optimistic vision."
  • Jessica tweeted this piece and like her I read it and gasped at such calm candour. And I thought I could not have made it through that conversation in the real world.
"I know that I’ve made assumptions about you, about the kind of nonmom you are.
I’ve always imagined that you went to parties and stayed out late and slept with various handsome men (and maybe women too) and had beautiful clothes that were not machine washable and that your body functioned in ways that did not surprise, alarm or amaze you. I felt sure that you went to sleep late, woke up late, and read the newspaper at breakfast. Your apartment, as I pictured it, was quiet and peaceful but not very tidy. Your life was your own. Your read books voraciously but were sometimes lonely. You traveled and went to writer’s colonies and applied for fellowships and teaching jobs that might require you to move to other states or countries for a few months. Your mother worried that you weren’t married and you told her that her alarm was antiquated and sexist."
  • Nicole Franzen makes every place she goes to a place I want to go to.
  • And I feel like every blogger has been to Iceland at this point, but I still want to go. Gorgeous.
  • Rereading is always a favourite topic of discussion. I believe in it passionately. Indeed, I love repetition in most things and feel best equipped to judge deeply when something has left its indentations in me.
  • And lastly:"At the moment, I tend to avoid fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense." She's ultimate.

Aesthetics & evil: The style of Hannibal

I'm obsessed with Hannibal, which is a bit of a departure from my normal taste in telly. It's not that I'm much a fan of horror or gore. Indeed, I regularly recoil when watching in anticipation of some scene of butchery. But the style is incredible. Whether it's the vanitas-inspired table-settings and flower arrangements, or the chiaroscuro crime scenes, this show imbues the grotesque with gorgeousness, heightened by incredible sound-editing and location selection (most of them in Toronto).

Indeed, one of the markers of evil in this show is high taste — the aesthetes of the show are the most dangerous characters. And being drawn to their style and manners knots the viewer in both seduction and repulsion.

Dr. Alana Bloom (played by Caroline Dhavernas) is an emerging contender this season. Her style has kicked up a notch — she has evolved from wearing mumsy DVF wrap dresses and drinking beer to a much more striking look and even changing her trademark beverage. Margot Verger's calculated style may be rubbing off on her but, more likely, Alana's near-death transformed her into vengeance-driven badass with better taste. Her softness is gone and there's no mistaking that she has decided to survive Hannibal's promise.

Being a tabloid crime journalist, Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) has always been a bit of a bad egg, but despite her venality she's still on the side of the victim. If Coco Chanel's elegance is about subtracting one item before you head out the door, Freddie does the opposite -- adding one more pattern, or a hat to top off her bountiful red hair. She's the least undercover investigative journalist you can imagine and wholly without qualm or conscience. Her style is impactful but always has an element of tacky over-the-topness to it, just as her storytelling and moral elasticity flaunts normal boundaries.

Dr. Chilton (Raúl Esparza - one of my favourites on the show) is also like Freddie in terms of character and portrayal of style.

But the woman to be is Gillian Anderson's Bedelia Du Maurier. With her slow and deliberate enunciation, it's clear Bedelia's cogs are always turning. She is consistently dressed in a panoply of jewel tones rendered in luxurious fabrics, with her golden hair cascading impeccably.

Bedelia is as close to Hannibal as an aesthetic peer as the show permits, and in that way, we can't be sure about her. Even her biggest break in restraint (when she goes to see Will in prison), has an element of deliberation in it. Bedelia's lack of spontaneity in both style and behaviour makes her elegance epitomized, but also wholly untrustworthy.

In contrast to Hannibal as the ultimate aesthete of the show, there's dog-smelling, cheap-cologne wearing Will (Hugh Dancy). Sometimes Will's look sharpens up, as he vacillates between good and evil (most notably at the end of last season), but his style and sensibility always indicates he is on the side of good, despite the clear seductive influence Hannibal has on him (and on us). Will, minus his gifts, is the most regular character on the show. His vacillation is ours. His everyman, dishevelled style is ours too.

Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) is also interesting to watch. His exquisite taste is revealed early on; this is clearly a man who appreciates Hannibal's high-minded approach to food, dress and decor. And, after the death of his wife and his own near death, his style (like Alana's) is changing. But it's more subtle with Jack and he is still on the side of good - we haven't seen the overt corruption of identity that we've seen in Alana. Still, Jack is one of those characters who does all the wrong things for the right reasons and his approach to good-doing makes easy sacrifices of others. His aesthetic is subtle, just as his ruthlessness with Will and others is masked in goodness.

And finally there's Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal. Even in captivity Hannibal has supreme style. His taste is expressed through how he lives and eats and what he wears, but it's more innate than that. He may wear a person-suit in order to fit in with the world, but his aesthetic taste ultimately betrays him and remains manifest even as his person-suit is peeled away. He can stand in a prison jumpsuit across from Alana and still ooze style. That the show has imbued Hannibal's character with this aesthetic untouchability gives us an idea of the strength of Hannibal's "memory palace." And because we naturally admire high style and high-mindedness, we're drawn to Hannibal and even want to elicit his approval.

So handsome. And so depraved. And so handsome.

Products for Alana Bloom: Coat | Hairpins | Pyjamas| Wine | Pants | Scent | Lipstick | Bracelet | Purse
Products for Freddie Lounds: Camera | Belt | Tights | Purse | Glove | Coat | Scent | Shoes | Heels
Products for Bedelia du Maurier: Purse | Dress | Umbrella | Blazer | Heels | Truffles | Fragrance | Bra | Hat
All screencaps from Hannibal / NBC, created by Bryan Fuller.

P.S. Also read Stacey May Fowles on Hannibal on the Globe & Mail and
Dr Hannibal Lecter: Sherlock Holmes meets Dracula.