It is officially crunch time. Our office move starts in less than a week. As of today I have plastering of drywall finishing up - and starting again - given that I also have electricians on site, painters and trim workers all doing the big push to get’er done. I also have my stairs at my house being touched up so that the runner that I’ve had for I don’t know how many months now can be installed - did I mention that my favourite installer has decided to quit the carpet biz in favour of art? Fortunately he emailed back last night and said he’d do our job for us.
I have friends visiting this week and next week from out of town so I have to take some time away to see them both (not complaining) but I do feel guilty (so I’m going to pack this weekend as my sweet friend Alison texted me to tell me that she’s coming to stay over at my house on Friday night (wine therapy) and then will help me pack up my office on Saturday. Our trainer has also insisted on helping given that she thinks that moving is an amazing work out (masochist). All the while, we are furiously trying to coordinate more installs out at our #HandsartHouse project in Winnipeg. It’s a good thing that I’ve worked on my coordination and stretching skills with said trainer because it really does feel like we are each being pulled in about a million directions and are being asked to juggle things all the while a new ball keeps being added unexpectedly. Weighing the pros and cons of what material to use to ship cabinets for example. Do we want cardboard/shrink wrap and strapped in with someone we know and have worked with successfully across the continent or do we want blanket wrapped with a new guy? We decided to err on the side of experience and go with the team we know and have the relationship with.
It all sounds entirely glamorous doesn’t it?
Also can we talk about the fact that the weather in Toronto is very Florida right now and the constant leaning toward almost 100% humidity is really messing with my hair and it’s Rosh Hoshanna - Shana Tova - if you celebrate, and I have a dinner tonight and a lunch today and I feel yet another Top Knot coming on. I also feel that it is necessary to add that if I owe you an email, it will most likely have a lag time in the next week (reminds me I have two people that I owe emails to!) Also if you leave the number of unread emails on your phone at some ridiculous amount instead of reading and marking read I don’t understand you. I can’t even have a recent call notification on my phone - I am decidedly THAT type of person. I’m a little more flexible with how the toilet paper roll goes - I’m an Ambi-Toilet roll person it just better be on the roll and holder (I’ve lived in my house for almost 14 years and have only had toilet roll holders installed for the last year I’m totally a hypocrite.
In light of my Stream of Consciousness blog writing today here’s a little taste of things we’ve been working on in the last little while in no particular order.
I uploaded some new pictures from our house reno to our portfolio - please check them out it has been quite the evolution. We’ve left up the photos that were first published in Style at Home magazine back in 2012 for comparison. I’ve also left up Luke’s nursery which has transformed into what he describes as a Chill room with a really great vibe. He’s 8 going on 14. As you can see we did include the herringbone floors into the kitchen - I love wood in a kitchen it is so much easier on your back and in my case my feet. You’ll also notice that we changed out our old Electrolux gas range which was 30” and put in a 36” Superiore NA Deco Range and Hood. We decided to be different and not match the hood to the range in terms of colour because to be honest, I was terrified of closing in an already tight kitchen. Here’s a surprise twist - the range fits in and is perfectly in line with the countertop which creates the sense that the countertop area is considerably more vast and spacious. This kitchen of ours is actually the perfect chef kitchen because everything is within reach and Asa often looks like Edward Scissorhands as he spins and grabs everything he needs. So visually our real estate seems to have doubled and the 36” width means that all of his cast iron pans have somewhere to live and don’t overhang the countertop. The lighter hood was brilliant in that it sort of disappears and has the quietest fan. I am appreciative of that touch.
I haven’t shared pics of our powder room either. Our DXV Wyatt Console sink and Landfair faucet look amazing. Mix your metals people. We also have their Spa-Let toilet aka the car wash for your bum, which my boys fight over. They don’t actually fight, they just jockey for who gets to use it. Luke took six months to come to terms with it and now it’s his favourite thing in the world. He’s going to LOVE Japan.
If I am being honest, while the grasscloth is fun, I think I’d rather a funkier paper on the walls. I had it and it looks great but it’s a little more casual than what I aspire to but don’t tell my husband I said so. It’s SO low on the priority scale. Like non-existent but I always need something to fixate on and plot about.
We installed our #LighthouseLodge project over the summer. Well in truth we started in May and the the clients saw that the furniture, while it looks amazing, really needed all of the accessories and art to bring it to life so we did a second round of installing the end of July beginning of August. I would say that people in generally, underestimate how empty a house will feel with only some furniture and a few accessories especially when it is a larger home. The addition of too little furniture and accents actually makes a house feel emptier than when it is empty. Likewise, a room can feel smaller when it doesn’t have anything in it but the moment you start adding pieces in it’s amazing how quickly it expands visually. I’m currently plotting out accessories for their city home and when I tell you that their garage is going to look like a design store in order for me to pull and style the house I am not kidding. In truth, I don’t think that one garage full of stuff will do it. They have two garages but the install will be in December at this point so I’m planning on setting up tables in the basement and using that as my command central for Styling and I anticipate that it will take me 4-5 days to complete. Then we will assess and I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts I’ll need another full round. Crazy huh?
Design is in the Details or Details are the Design - Charles Eames had it right even if I can’t remember exactly how he said it. Case in point, our #LL project our clients didn’t flinch at our addition of trim and unusual piping/nail heads etc because they appreciate that these elements create the nuance that makes no transforms a space from a room to something well more - they really shape how you respond and interact to and within a space. We were basically outfitting the whole place from scratch with some vintage and antique pieces but most of it is brand spanking new yet we didn’t want the space to feel as such. The whole notion of a LODGE is something that tells stories past and present and ages with a well-worn patina and isn’t precious. I think we achieved that. And can I tell you, an octagonal log cabin smells heavenly each and every time you walk into it. Amazing compliment to our design and the smell will trigger such amazing memories as our interiors envelope you in a giant hug that says Welcome Home. Also my kid is forever ruined as to “Cottages” he would like to live there.
So people often wonder what the average time span of a design project is and of course it always varies depending on scope. Decorating projects, people think are super fast and easy but rarely are - especially the way suppliers work these days. No one stocks anything. If they tell you they do they are over exaggerating or telling half truths. It’s simply not done any more and the entire world is transforming to Made to Order. Heck even Amazon doesn’t always have stock. Sheesh! Imagine bespoke or customized pieces??? LAWD HAVE MERCY. So once you have that understood, relax and wait for it.
Our #Bessborough project took about a year from the time we said YES to the clients ( I had initially said no feeling that the budget/scope didn’t align with what I want to be able to achieve in a design project but our clients wanted to work with us and they were so darn nice and flexible that we soon found ourselves saying HELL YES!). We presented to them rather quickly and they said yes to everything - easiest presentation of last year. They increased their scope a bit by asking to redo the powder room which took almost as long as the custom rug I designed. Now the befores weren’t tragic - the house itself is a new build and our clients literally didn’t have much in the way of furniture.
This was the “Before, Before” it’s from the real estate listing. I think that the builders actually lived in the home so this was their design. It’s beautiful a little bland but our clients were open to our vision of colour and pattern and I wanted more seating in the living room.
While we are discussing the reality of projects - sofas GOOD ones start at about $7500 and go up from there. We lucked out in that the fabric on our amazing sofa was a graded in fabric and we jumped on that like white on rice.
I kinda blocked out that THESE chairs were actually what took the longest in the project. It is a sad tale of woe to be honest. We loved the fabric and the leather and they came from one division of a company and the chair frame a different one. Getting the right quantity of fabric - given that we wanted to do the interior in the woven and the outside of the chair in the leather took WAY more time than needed to figure it out. I mean I could have figured it out but furniture companies always want MORE fabric (in case they screw up). Then once we finally figured out the quantity - getting the fabric from one division to the next because an Odyssey. It went from a bad sequel to an epic trilogy over many months when the leather had an issue with it. Literally we had to hit reset and start all over again. Then when we thought that we were just going to have to give up and abandon our chair dreams, the rep from division A made a little quip about walking over to rep from Division B’s desk which was RIGHT FREAKING BESIDE HER!!!!!!!!! MONTHS AND MONTHS AND MONTHS OF BACK AND FORTHS VIA EMAIL BETWEEN THE TWO DIVISIONS TO TRY AND FIGURE THIS ALL OUT AND THEY SAT BESIDE EACH OTHER THE ENTIRE $*(%%(*E)$$*%&*&% TIME. I SHIT YOU NOT.
My staff and I continue to be in therapy over this. Fortunately, our actual Brand Rep for all the lines brings us donuts when she shows us new product and I feel that this atones for the HELL that we went through over this pair of chairs.
Always, always, always include in your budget the accessorizing component which includes artwork and books. You need way more money to accessorize than you expect.
Curves are the cure for people who think that “Clean, Straight Lines” is a design style thanks to all of those Faux Pro Design Shows on HGTV and morning talk shows. Also - a new addition to the Meredith Heron Collection of Rugs!!!! It’s wool and silk and is the perfect foil to the pattern on the sofa and the drapery!!
Toronto needs to kick it’s grey addiction.
Art doesn’t have to break the bank but your project isn’t done until it is hung on the walls. I’ve got lots more sneak peeks as we’ve uploaded this project to our portfolio. I’ll discuss the other areas in a different blog post. I like to think that we TOTALLY nailed this.
Whenever I walk into a new project, I immediately check for moulding. Is it there? Is it to my standard? Does it need to be ripped out immediately? There is nothing like cheap moulding to undermine an entire project. It doesn’t matter what you put in the home, how expensive it is etc if you have cheap moulding, your entire project suffers. Lipstick on a pig comes to mind.
For #MHDBrownstone we couldn’t cope with the 1980’s builder’s colonial moulding special that was put in. The previous owners had upgraded a few of the areas when they put in newer hardwood floors but unfortunately, they matched what was there to start with with a bit more height and crown moulding in a few areas. Anna who works with us, used to work for Alexandria Moulding so to say that she’s a WEE bit of a moulding snob would be a gigantic understatement. Of course we thought that we could rip out narrow ugly casing but soon discovered that said casing was part of the door jambs so it all has to come out.
The house itself feels contemporary so colonial moulding doesn’t work and it will never ever leave if we didn’t prioritize its removal from the start. Sometimes a renovation is a game of inches. I know that many projects get deferred when a client has to replace eaves, roofs, furnaces or windows. Those are always painful and ungratifying projects. I totally get it. Trim however, makes ALL the difference. It can transform.
I should also mention that we wanted to raise our doors to 90” but then we got a quote of $7000 to do this to a few doors and we couldn’t justify that cost. Anna and I put our heads together and we’ve opted for an “Over Door” We are going to extend the casing up to the ceiling and then instead of an architrave, we are going to apply a raised panel visually increasing the height of the door.
This Over Door by Joseph Dirand is basically what we are looking to recreate. The circle just does it for me. Gah.
Both with the Brownstone and with our #StGeorge project we have doors that are in tight areas and therefore we had to get creative with casing. This bolection moulding from Steven Gambrel was our inspiration for both projects and we purchased it because the bolection gives a projection that narrow mouldings fail to provide in many instances. We don’t want a flat moulding to just lie there an underwhelm or reinforce the tight fits.
I knew that I didn’t want raised or recessed panelled doors for the same reason we chose the bolection. Too many stops and starts and definition would define the smaller areas - our one hallway off of the office area has a powder room, a linen closet with two doors and my office door plus two stairways. That’s a lot of up and downs, stops and starts, ins and outs in a tight space. Flat Slab Front doors were for sure what I was after and the king of my favourite doors is of course Jean Louis Deniot. We are doing Solid Core doors to help with sound control - side note the house is SO SO Quiet from the outside world. AMAZING. The high gloss lacquer is a must if you are going with this option.
We don’t have the same ceiling height as this foyer by JLD but it is serving as our inspiration. I’m just trying to decide if I want polished nickel hardware or the brass and black one I shared the other day. When I see this, I lean to polished nickel if I’m being perfectly honest. I’m open to your thoughts of course. Our doors will be a pale robin’s egg blue - smoked- in a super luxe gloss. This woke me up early the other morning as I realized that I couldn’t just leave the door that colour and paint the casing like the trim elsewhere in a white. If the idea is to make the doors feel taller I have to paint the casing and the over door out the same as the door. The opening photo - which is actually a shot taken by Nam Dang Mitchell that I grabbed to my inspiration file on instagram a few months ago was my original palette inspo for the doors but I think I need to revert back to a paler version of it like in JLD‘s foyer so that it’s a subtle watery gloss. If we are lacquering the doors I’ll use Farrow and Ball’s Light Blue as inspiration for the lacquer mixture and then use their modern eggshell (which has a lot of sheen) for the casing and the panel above the door but not as much gloss as the door. Make sense?
Now back to the hardware - thoughts?
My exterior looks cool and calm (unless you work with me then you know I’m kinda frazzled) and I down play the herculean tasks ahead when it comes to redesigning a house to suit an office with a team of 6-8 and then having to get out of a lease and move said office all the while working on client projects around the globe.
I set my office on fire last week.
Yes, you read that correctly. For our new digs, I’ve decided that I want to have a custom scent that filters through the HVAC system. I’ve begun the research on this which of course involves getting scents from different companies that work in this realm. The first company I received samples from was UHHHHMAZING. Air Aroma is fantastic truly and the scents they sent were killer. They also will work with us to develop a custom scent which is incroyable. Their prices though - a bit steep. As it happens, but SIL tagged me in a story in the Globe about how scents from Hotels have gone residential and people are looking to craft these for their homes. I’m ahead of the curve on this clearly. They recommended some other companies different to the two I already knew of so I sent out requests for samples and I received some. I know this is a long way around the park to get to the part about me setting fire to my office but trust me it’s essential. One company sent me their samples and to be honest, I couldn’t get them out of the building fast enough. GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHRRRROOSSSSS. It was like Febreeze. I had a violent reaction to them. NASTY AS F*K. The next day though the smell was still lingering so I lit a candle. Asa brought me breakfast and a napkin but I have my door open to let in some fresh air and there was wind and the next thing I know my desk is on fire. I took the flaming napkin and put it on my plate but my papers on my desk were also on fire. I put those out and then poured water on the flaming napkin which was almost singing my eyebrows off the flame was so high. The expensive computer equipment and phone are fine. My nerves a bit fried like the papers.
That was a week ago. Yesterday, I felt safe enough to light a different candle in a more protected glass jar/holder thingee and it was all good. This morning I walked into my office and realized that I had left it burning ALL NIGHT LONG. Someone take away my matches. I’m distracted and stressed out. Our contractor was supposed to have started Monday and he delayed until next week - you know the week before we move in… last night I reached out to my cabinet maker because I’m not even sure our contractor will start next week and he’s going to save the day. Baseboard and casing need to happen. I’ve got electrical happening too next week. What I did realize yesterday though is that I don’t need the custom millwork cabinetry for my team’s workspace to be ready any time soon. Their desks now all fit. We can make due. Taking that pressure off of myself and re-prioritizing what we need to get done now is a relief to be honest. We will be taking an MHD Team Trip to Mexico in February - yes you read that correctly - we are adding an OLE to team building/retreat so I have time that the trades can work in the space without us and I’ll be in Japan for much of October as well so we can make it work. A lesson for anyone embarking on any kind of design/renovation - be realistic, don’t force something that isn’t going to fit to try and fit. Sheer will is great in some instances but in a design project with so many moving parts, sometimes you have to let the cards fall where they may and by relinquishing to the design gods - you will save yourself a lot of grief and allow good things to align in your favour.
But hide the matches and lighters - safety first.
I brought receipts.
So while I transition from level headed sane person into my full redhead self on the inside - I really try not to let people see me sweat, I wanted to talk about transition spaces in the new Brownstone. The house itself is about 13ft wide (making my own home two feet wider!). However, designed so very well it’s a serious of half stories so that each room takes up a floor and therefore has the full width of the house. Smart! The stairwell if you will, runs through the centre of the house - it also means we’ll get our steps in when we need to visit each office or the sample room which is at the top of the house.
For starters we have glass railings. If you know me, you know how much I kind of loathe these but I’m working with it. The bones of the house fall into the Modern Category because of the vertical nature of the house so I have to mix the traditional in to really say MEREDITH but I am embracing the more modern elements and including additional ones to boot. That boob light in there is going to go BUHHHBYE and this small room that faces west will be Asa’s office. We are going to be painting his office a deep rich Jade/Mallard green and accenting with Asian elements. We have a trip to Japan this fall and I expect that we will take photography to suit in a large format. I may have planned some of my Japan Itinerary around places I need to photograph. HA!
I also plan to call in a favour from one of my favourite people ever about our favourite world’s most comfortable leather chair to give Asa his own napping space. He is a legendary nap taker and having his own space to zone out is a must. I’m actually super excited about this hallway because it has height - plaster moulding happening - it has a sky light so it’s super bright. We are adding a sconce to the left of the door and then we are using bolection moulding to create an over door with panel to make the doors look taller than they are. We need to get a new wall vent below the frosted window that is in the ensuite - who does that?? GAWD.
This is the entrance to the sample room. We’ll be adding a wall sconce by Peter Bristol to the right of the entrance. We are removing all of the baseboards because Colonial baseboards with a shoe mould don’t really say MODERN and totally don’t work with the railings. I’m losing the brown on the railings and option most likely for black and the walls will be a warm white. We will be suspending the huge lantern that we have in our current office over our meeting table here. At 36” high the lantern will only fit here. So here it will live. Our longer term plans are to adorn the hallway walls in venetian plaster in a creamy tone.
Our inspiration board for the transition spaces. Replace all doors with slab front doors in a lacquer finish much like these ones by Jean Louis Deniot. We are adding plaster moulding on the top ceiling level but the foyer and work space stairwell walls will have the same panelling as the foyer. Only after we switch at my office will the plaster start. I’m leaning toward the black level hardware from Paris. The weird oval and gold leaf artwork is to be suspended by chains in the upper stairwell. The disc on the far left is actually our wall sconces. SUPER sexy.