Sunday
Jun012014

#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. 

 

Tuesday
Apr152014

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.

Sunday
Dec152013

downtonstagrams

Officially Season 4 of Downton hasn't started yet on PBS Masterpiece, but I must confess I've seen the whole darn thing already. I'm so excited for the Christmas special! Hopefully no deadly car crashed this year. And hopefully lots of fabulous outfits and sets and jewelry.

But what I'm really here to tell you about is that you should follow the official Downton Instagram feed here

There aren't too many posts up yet, but it's pretty yummy!

Like many I marvel at the dinner scenes, which obviously take quite a whiile to film. I just die for the stemware. How amazing to get a close-up peak at a table setting. 

...and of course the stunning teacups and saucers and spoons.

The caption doesn't say, but I wonder if this tea setting might be at Crawley House or the Dowager Countess's home, since the china pattern is different from above. I might have to rewatch to see if I can spot this set. #nerdalert.

It's full-on 1920s style in the costumes for Season 4 and the colours and beading are magnificent. I especially love how the beaded dresses catch the light. And Lady Mary dons a couple of stunning purple velvet frocks. It's fascinating to see how her wardrobe evolves as she comes out of her all-black morning. Keep an eye for it.

Another favourite part of Season 4 is how Lady Edith really blossoms. Watch for her in some truly stunning — and even sexy — ensembles. This olive green colour is so interesting and it looks fantastic on her. Love the hair ornament and her waves are perfection.

Here's another closeup vignette. No idea where this is but that painting is the bomb, as is the brass box!

And speaking of hair ornaments — hello incredible headband! And look at the mastery of her makeup: blushy cheeks and stained lips and those brows, and little else. Happy Birthday Michelle Dockery! She and her perfect eyebrows are celebrating a birthday today. In honour, I shall post my first gif -- look for the most subtle raise of the brow. Remember this: "I wouldn't want to push in."

And you can see a few more here.

And lastly, also speaking of that scene. Here's a screen cap of a wide shot:

Check out that pretty little piece of furniture, which I crushed on since first laying eyes on it. 

Mr. A just go this look-a-like in over at his shop. Check it out at the Vintage Fine Objects blog.