rattan cabana

How amazing is this? Can you imagine chillin' in here on the beach in PEI? I can, but I'd be afraid it would blow away. Plus you'd need a sherpa to carry it out, put it together and dismantle it every time. I think I've been watching too many picnic and hunting scenes on Downton. Still, a girl can dream.

Or maybe just keep it in the backyard. I think I'd get a polkadot sunburn through the weave. And lastly, the price tag is $8,000...and you'd have to order it from the UK at Whitestores.

Oh well. Still....counting down until May long weekend!


screened porch

Exciting times for our little corner of Prince Edward Island. Mr. A and I are hatching plans for a screened porch addition onto the back of the cottage. Very simple. Like a semi-exterior room. All the good breezes but none of the mosquitoes. Those blasted wee beasties can really hamper your exterior living on the island. I'm obsessing on Pinterest looking for inspiration. The structure itself will be dead simple: walls up to chair height and then panels of screen. Probably a lean-to roof. The inside will be the real design challenge. I want the space to fulfill a million functions: lounge, dining, game-playing and sleeping. Furnishing it wil be a challenge. The structure will go up soon and then in May it's full steam ahead to get it ready for 2014 entertaining! Here are some of my inspiration images:

The structure will likely be something like this (but smaller), but the lower portion of walls will be closed in - prob with beadboard. Interior will be painted white, floor likely grey, exactly as the main cottage.

The structure is about right but daybeds look a tad austere, no?

The ceiling height here is to die for, but sadly out of the question for us. I love vintage wicker furniture and will be keeping my eyes peeled for some mismatched pieces. I soooo loathe that brown plastic woven faux wicker shiz. It will be banned.

These DIY sleeping porch beds are from the folks at Martha. I'd love to be able to cook something up like this that could do double duty -- L-shaped sofa and twin beds as needed.

This is my fave porch design of all time, as you may know: a Tom Scheerer room with a smattering of my favourite Peter Dunham Figs fabric. As much as I love that fabric I don't feel it's quite right for my PEI space. Stripes will be my go-to more likely.

sources: 1: Courtney Bishop Design. 2:Kay Douglass  3: Allison Ramsey Architect 4: Lisa Hubbard Photography. 5: Tom Scheerer.

ellsworth kelly

So, speaking of knock-offs (which I was in my previous post), here's the story of the "artwork" in our PEI cottage. I call it an "homage" but essentially it is a work of an ilk that actually irks me -- DIY knock-off abstracts. So here I am, the pot who calls the kettle black. I'm fessing up (but don't worry, I'm not opening an Etsy store anytime soon.)

Here was the situation. Our little cottage already had a wall full of coastal-referencing bits and bobs -- ships, water, birds, shells. As seen here:

Whatever was going above the sofa needed to be different. A bit of relief. I wanted to hang a mirror. It's true what we say in the decorating mags - mirrors are quite amazing at expanding tiny spaces and this space is super teeny. I held a mirror in place and only then noticed that once hung it would reflect the kitchen -specifically the side view of open shelves and the side the the fridge. UGH. Never hang a mirror if it isn't going to reflect something pretty. And hence Plan B came into effect. I taped off the trapezoid shape on a piece of bristol board and painted it using leftover paint from the entryway. Boom. Done. It's shameful, I know. But grant me this: I chose this particular form because it's inspired by an Ellsworth Kelly piece called "For Leo". My Dad's name is Leo. He is was born and raised on Prince Edward Island. I call mine "For Dad".

Here's some real deal Ellsworth Kelly:

This one is called "Purple", a limited edition lithograph that sold at auction in Dec. 2012 for $4,688.

This one is called Colored Paper Image XIV (Yellow Curve), 1976. It's available at the Susan Sheehan Gallery in NYC for $30,000. I spied it on 1stdibs this morning.

I am moved by this stuff. I can't explain it. Art is like that I guess.

Here he is in his Spencertown, NY studio. Photo by Annie Leibovitz (!) for this piece in Vanity Fair. Would that we could all be so cool at 89. PS. I'd give my eye teeth for that paint-splattered chair in the foreground!





Paulistano and Locksta

Meet the Paulistano chair. It was born in 1957 in Brazil, but only made available in North America in 2006. I spotted it on the Interwebs a while back and marvelled at it's simplicity. I love simple design. Just enough. Not too much. Design that looks like utility. And then, just a few weeks ago I spied it on the floor at the Design Within Reach showroom just a few doors down from the office. I dared to sit in it. Oh my. It is so unbelieveable comfortable. It is also astronomically expensive. What you see above is a 17ft long piece of steel bent into shape and welded in one spot. The sling style seat is made of canvas. The price as shown:

US $1,062.50

OK, take a breath. Now, I've been at this game a while. I've learned what goes into great design and quality materials and construction. I've seen cheap knock-offs and the real deal up close and personal. I get that not everyone can afford originals (I am mostly one of those people). But I gotta say, I just do not get the price of this thing. It's a chunk of canvas and a metal bar. I recognize it as an architectural wonder, but still isn't the cost associated with that mostly tied to prototyping. I mean, once you've figured out the angles (which they did in 1957!), how complicated can it be to make? More. Than. A. Grand???

And just FYI, it comes in two different metal finishes - black or white, and in several different fabrics: 10 different colour/finish combos for an outdoors version, 4 combos of the indoor version and 4 versions in leather (the leather ones ring in at $1,317+).

Safe to say I will never own a Paulistano.

Meet the Locksta easy chair. It is a newborn, just in at your local IKEA (of course). It has a steel frame, which comes in several pieces and requires assembly using screws. The fabric is polyester. It comes in these other two colours:


Locksta price as shown:


So, I'm thinking it's time for an IKEA hack: spray paint the steel frame white, have a new white fabric seat made (frig, I could even make it myself using the provided one as the pattern). Conservatively that hack would bring the investment to $80.

I see new chairs for the PEI cottage in my future because (confession) the white faux bamboo ones we have are murderously uncomfortable and must go. 

Flights are booked for the long weekend in May - YTZ to Halifax and then road trippin' it to the Island. So 'cited.

before photos...and...

Well, my lovelies, this has been a long time coming. I mentioned in an earlier post the fact that I was not yet able to share images of our finished Whale Cottage on Prince Edward Island. You see, a magazine held the rights to the images taken last summer by the super talented Michael Graydon. It was my understanding that the magazine story would be published some time this summer. In good faith I did not reveal the finished space, expecting to see it in print. Mr. A was interviewed. Sources were submitted. Follow up questions were answered. But the feature did not run. Summer is drawing to a close. But I, for one, have not stopped thinking about peaceful sandy beaches, seafood feasts, bike rides and bonfires..and our little getaway on the East Coast. So...(gee, wish I knew how to find and upload a drumroll gif. I don't, so ellipses will have to do)....here, my friends, are the before photos, followed by a link to the Big Reveal.

Entry vestibule before: red painted wood floors, white trim, tan walls, nasty polyester lace curtains. All ugly but the very existence of this space was a bonus - so great for rain gear, sports equipment and beach stuff.

Living area before: loved the wood floors, tongue and groove wainscotting, beamed ceiling. Disliked the combo of paint colours and the missing door to the utility room, leaving the water heater in full view. Also, the space is teeny so I knew it would be a challenge to furnish.

Kitchen, north wall: loved the sink, faucet and wood counter. Cabinets - a bit makeshift, but I knew a coat of paint would make a world of difference. Also noted: no dishwasher...

...and a gander to the other side of the "kitchen" reveals in fact no appliances at all. Bummer. 

The utility area - I won't call it a room since it had no door - featured beige walls and a fetching shade of purple on the trim. That's right, purple trim. Oh yes, and knotty pine floors and no door (did I mention that?) and an exposed water heater. Nice.

The bathroom, wedged under the stairs and off the utility area was just large enough to hold tub, toilet and this sink. No window. Some rust and mildew. A broken sink cabinet. No room to turn around. Eeeww. P.S. there's an eyeful of that purple trim.

At the top of the stairs, the snug: loved the west light flooding this space when we saw it first in late afternoon. Yellow floors, no. Blue-grey wall colour, yes. The twin bed frame and table: scooped from the curb almost as fast as we put them there. 

The main bedroom: loved the angled ceiling, the beadboard on the ceiling, the gentle cross breeze between this window and the one in the snug across the way. This double bed frame fit in the Snug so we upsized to a fancy pillow top queen for this room to make it feel like a resort. Carpet: ick, gone. Vanity: to the curb. Space heater: in storage awaiting our first cold-weather visit.

And now, enfin, the finished project (click the image to watch the vid):




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.

lester the blue lobster

***UPDATE: note, I refer to the blue one as "that little guy", however, I do not know the sex. Yes, there are boy lobsters and girl lobsters, and I have it on good authority from my East Coast peeps that when you are buying lobster to cook and eat, you should always request female lobsters. Much more tasty.

Check it! I told you there are blue lobsters in real life - and orange ones and freckled ones, too. But that blue guy - what an amazing colour. Next time I am called upon to name paint colours (it has only happened once but I live in a perpetual state of preparedness for the next time), I will for sure be naming a blue paint colour after that little guy: Lobster Blue, Lester Blue, Blue Lobster, Claw Blue, Crustacean Cerulean...just spitballing a few ideas.

Read more about the phenomenon of coloured lobsters in the HuffPo.

Countdown is on to PEI Road Trip Summer 2012. 

sneak peek inside

You may have seen this in a Canadian decorating magazine recently. But you'd be forgiven if you totally missed it. It's the kitchen at our PEI cottage. I can't really share photos of the full interior (it's a loooong, looong story). But I can't resist sharing a little peek. The kitchen is a petite galley. The wood counter, sink and faucet (I sooo love the sink and faucet) are all just as they were found. We got a quote on having the sink re-enamelled, but in the end I have decided to embrace its nicks and wear.

The cabinets were a few shades of blue before. We cleaned them up with lots of white paint -- Beauti-Tone Paperwhite -- a white that is near and dear to my heart (yes, I'm the kind of person who can refer to a paint colour as near and dear to her heart). Our other additions: a cute little holophane pendant from RONA, blinds from Home Depot (these things are my go-to budget window covering - have been using them for years), a backsplash of white ceramic penny rounds that I am proud to say I installed all by myself (first tiling project!), and last but not least, my blue lobster curtains. Blue lobsters are a rare natural phenomenon and are considered good luck. It's a little kitsch, but I couldn't resist using a little bit of this fabric. I got it a Suzanne Brown & Assoc. showroom in Toronto and sewed the curtain myself. Husband likes it that short - I think it looks like floods. Hmmm. 

The mudroom

This is a detail of the entry mudroom. The shell-encrusted mirror is super big and a beaut. Mr. A found it loooong before we had the place and was saving it for our one-day PEI cottage. It has found its perfect home. It announces coastal style to all who enter and bounces a little light around this dark little room. I painted the walls Trinity Blazer from Beauti-Tone. I call it a marine blue -- gutsy for a white wall lover such as myslef. I DID NOT like it when it was first going on the wall. Mr. A was teasing me by calling it Toronto Maple Leaf blue. Eeeeew. Alas, one must not judge a paint colour until the room is fully realized. I now love it. I painted the space a dark colour so that it would feel instantly cool when you came in from a hot day at the beach. We picked up the old coil of rope at the Moncton flea market on our first road trip to the cottage from Ontario.

This is a little vignette on a table in the mudroom -- all of it Mr. A's doing. As you may know, he has a fantastic eye for fine vintage objects and a knack for tablescapes. The tiny oil painting is incredibly evocative of the area. The swirly glazed 19th c pottery is where we stash our keys. Shells....well, of course. The vintage glass bottle is the prettiest watery hue. 

We painted all of the floors in Patina from Beauti-Tone. PEI's red soil meant white floors were utterly out of the question. Pale grey is just right. They're still light but with a slightly Swedish look. The colour looks great on the original wide planks, which were previously blood red. I like how this photo is a bit like a portrait of Mr. A and I: his shoes next to mine. And the shoes say it all: slip-on sneaks, well-worn espadrilles, flipflops. I must extend a hat tip to Michael Graydon for this shot. He didn't take this one, I did, but the idea of this photo was his. Trust me, his version is way way better.

I hope to share more of the cottage makeover process with you. Check back. Meanwhile, I'm counting the days until our next visit. 

toes in the atlantic may 19

There's no pretty pedi to speak of, but here's my proof that my bare toes (actualy up to my ankles) walked in the Atlantic Ocean on May 19, 2012. Every cottage needs its rituals: Scrabble tourneys, costume day, mini regattas - that sort of thing. As part of ours I think we'll record the first and latest dips in the Atlantic. It's not for the faint of heart. Even in high summer, the water temp can stay at just 17C, which is brisk. But, as the saying goes in our family: "It's nice once you get in." When I look at my camera roll I realize that I just can't stop taking pictures of the beach. And yet each is the same serene swathes of bright blue sky, dunes, grass, sand, water. Photo after photo basically the same. Not sure if/when I'll stop doing this. When will the beach seem normal and not utterly breathtaking? Part of me hopes that day may never come. 

PS. don't you love the little patterns that the swirling water is making as the waves bubble in and wash over my toes and the sand. I'm pretty sure that should be a fabric or wallpaper. 

Plans are starting to take shape for a cottage full of family this summer and I couldn't be happier about it. 

recent acquisition: village pottery leaf

I'm pleased to introduce you to my new leaf plate. I bought it this weekend at The Village Pottery in New London, PEI, but it now lives in its new home on my coffee table in Toronto. We were lucky enough to spend 5 spectacular days on the Island recently. It was so wonderful. I have much more to tell you about the trip. If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter you already know I microblogged the heck out of the trip. But back to the leaf. This lovely thing is the work of Suzanne Scott, who is better known around the social media world as The Potter's Daughter. It was great to meet Suzanne and to see all of the wonderful handmade pottery in the shop. Despite the fact that I seriously need to be in purge mode rather than acquisition mode -- I could not resist. I suppose my leaf could be for sushi or an appetizer or something. But for me it's that perfect little objet that every stylist needs to put on top of a book. In this case Else de Wolfe: A Decorative Life - such a pretty book, and a very interesting biography of one of my design gurus. But again, I digress. Here are a few more snaps of the Village Pottery.

I chose my piece from the wall of green. I think they should just call this the Wall of Margot.

The yellows -- a close second fave for me. Such a delightful mellow buttery colour. Suzanne makes her lace pieces by pressing a piece of lace that belonged to her grandmother into the wet clay. Sweet.

A two-tone mix that is Suzanne's current favourite.

I believe that coffee and tea taste much better in homemade pottery. These are massive and gorgeous and beautifully displayed in an old post office pigeon hole cabinet.


utter inn sweden

Saw this adorable little houseboat/floating dock while poking around the webs the other day and thought it was cute as pie. But the most fascinating bit about it is what lies beneath:

 Inside the hut is a hatch with stairs that go down to...

A teeny tiny two-bed hotel room, 10 feet below the water in a lake about an hour from Stockholm! Can you believe?

Could you sleep a night here? Looks like a luxe Hastens bed - can't go wrong there. 

Apparently the toilet and the cooker are in the above-water hut.  So cute, so quirky, and perhaps just the tiniest bit creepy...would you?

Find out more about the Utter Inn at the Unusual Hotels of the World site.

recent acquisition: hermès ashtray

Recent acquisition is a series I started the other day and this is the latest edition. My thinking behind this series is to provide an alternative to all the Instagramming and Tweeting by everyone and their blogging buddy of random shots of things they like but haven't actually committed to buying. It's a practice that doesn't sit right with me. First up, I'll admit I've done it, but I'm going to try to do less of it. Here's why: as I have said before on the House & Home blog, the truest expression of your appreciation of something in a shop is to purchase it. Support the seller in the most tangible way. I was involved in a Twitter discussion once with an incredulous Tweeter who couldn't believe the nerve of a retailer who denied her the right to take a photo. The case she made was that she would shoot it and probably go back to buy the thing. Oh please. I'm no retailer, but I know one intimately and that gives me the inside insight into the fact that 9 times out of 10, once you leave that shop you are not coming back. 

Of course, I understand the other side. We can't buy everything we see that we like, since we may not have the space or the budget. And yes, we live in a society that may be driven a bit too much by consumption. But still, there's a whiff on inauthenticity to a missive sent out "I love it sooooo much" when you don't love it enough to buy it.  

And lastly, Recent Aquisition is a way for me to offer original content for this space. Authenticity and originality – to me these are the pillars of blogging. I don't always measure up but I'm working on these.

Grumpy preamble ends here.

Now, a bit more about our little friend above. Mr. A bought it in a private sale and when it came home we immediately put it in the Take to Whale Cottage pile, which seemed obvious given its motif. And yes, it appears to be the real deal:

In case you were wondering, no, I don't smoke. This thing will never receive a burning ember if I have anything to say about it. Instead I'm thinking of putting it in the bathroom as a spot to put watch and jewelry, or maybe just on the coffee table on top of some books. I may toss a couple of matchbooks in it to keep them handy for lighting our hurricanes or candle sconces. For now, it sits awaiting its next assignment. 

sailing style

I blame Samantha Pynn. Just like that, after two back-to-back episodes of Summer Home on HGTV Canada I've got all things coastal and cottage on the brain. I look forward to sharing more info and behind the scenes about our little PEI getaway in a few months. In fact, we are close to booking our first visit of 2012. But meanwhile, I'll also fill this blog stream with all things cottage and coastal and watery and Islandy and Prince Edward Islandy and Maritimey. 

I posted about this ship, the almost nothing, over at the House & Home blog but it's such a beaut I think it deserves a double post (such a cheater I am). The pure whiteness of it and the way is slices through the water. Just stunning. I learned to sail once. So many years ago we had a tiny 2-man boat - a Sunfish. 'Twas not even a minnow compared to this glorious thing. When my brother and I would go out on Anstruther Lake with it, he'd get it going and then let it flip over on purpose. 

Of course there is so much to love about sailing. Boat design yes, but also the pure posh factor. It's just so blue blood. And the clothes, the clothes. The real deal Helly Hansen gear and the ready to wear landlubber stuff -- love it all. Navy is definitely my new black. 

Blood doesn't get much more blue than these two - Jack and Jackie Kennedy looking gorgeous and carefree on the water. Did I ever tell you my one degree of separation from them? It's a crazy story, so even if you've heard it, I'm telling it again. This lovely older lady who was a client of Mr. A's said to him once, "If you are ever in Washington, you must come visit." Well we did visit in 2002. Turns out, the lady and her husband, a famed Washington Post journalist, were the couple who had the dinner party where Jack met Jackie. I kid you not. The couple are characters in all the bio pics. The famous scene where J and J meet and flirt over how to eat asparagus at a formal dinner party - that happened at their house. AND I STOOD IN THAT DINING ROOM! Mr. A's client was a gracious hostess. The two of them bonded over some important antique collections and she took us to the very best Georgetown shops. It was quite a trip.

And speaking of blue blood. Pretty sure hers was even bluer than the Kennedys. Grace Kelly off the coast of Monaco.

I could have sworn Katherine Hepburn was a sailing sort, but I guess golf was more her game. Though in my head I can hear her as heiress Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story describing her beloved yacht The True Love as "yar" Seems most of her real life "sailing" was done while crossing the ocean. Here she is on Cunard's RMS Parthia, a ship that carried only 250 first class passengers. PS. Did you know Cunard founder Samuel Cunard from from Halifax, NS?

If I had a boat like the almost nothing I would like to look like this and wear this:

Funny story about this image. I found it on Pinterest and when I decided to post it here I set about doing some credits research. Well, turns out it's from a shoot for FASHION magazine and was shot by Gabor Jurina (whom I've met and worked with) and Susie Sheffman, whom I've also met and whose dining room is shown in the latest House & Home special issue. There goes the world being small again! The lovely model is Marie-Eve Nadeau and the story was shot off the coast of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. I found it on the Dust Jacket Attic blog. Wide leg pants and Chuck Taylors...I wish.

But you mustn't go yet. I can't blog sailing without sharing my fave movie clip of sailing. Now, Pierce Brosnan is on a catamaran, which is a different animal than a sloop, but still, it's a sexy boat. And that soundtrack is guaranteed to kick start your day. Music by Bill Conti for The Thomas Crown Affair. Very sad that I can't embed it. Click on the screen capture below to watch the vid:

 photo credits: 1. from Plain Space by John Pawson (Phaidon, 2010) via House & Home. 2. Life magazine via Katie Armour, The Neo-Traditionalist. 3.&5. Habitually Chic. 4. Dust Jacket Attic 6. YouTube.


deep sea fishing

I love deep sea fishing off Prince Edward Island. You mostly get mackerel, which I have acquired a taste for thanks to the secret ingredient (butter, lots of butter). I let the boat crew deal with baiting the hook, and removing the catch, oh yes, and filleting. But I like the fishing. With my extended family it's kind of a tradition. We try to get as many people together as possible to head out on a charter from Covehead Harbour. 

Here's a shot I took of my parents when we went fishing in 2009. It's a happy memory. We catch small fish and we eat them that night for dinner. Even though we've been doing this for years, we are total amateurs compared to some. Which leads me to this astounding You Tube find. Check out what happens at the very end of this video. I love it.

Counting the days to our first Island visit of 2012...