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Bloomsbury Style

<p>Kai Ethier</p>
Bloomsbury Style
Kai Ethier's personal take on this timeless look.

The Bloomsbury group was an informal group of intellectuals, writers and artists that lived and worked in the Bloomsbury neighbourhood of London around 1910. The group had a number "members" but the most famous perhaps is the writer Virginia Woolf.

Over the past 105 years, the Bloomsbury group and their work have inspired film, fashion, literature and decor. Charleston House, the Sussex home of painters Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf's sister) and Duncan Grant is now a museum open to the public. It's often used as a location for photo shoots and film.

I've personally been very inspired by this country house. So I was happy to use my own Toronto home as the backdrop for a Bloomsbury story that my colleague Stacey Smithers and I produced for the March 2015 issue. (You can also watch an Online TV tour of my Bloomsbury-inspired home.)

Here are three tips for bringing a bit of Bloomsbury style to your own home:

1. Be creative with paint. The most striking thing about Charleston House is perhaps the paintings, and I'm not talking about the art framed and hung throughout the house. While those are certainly present, it's the murals on the walls, the painted furniture and various painted objects that stand out to me.

To achieve a similar feel, I suggest picking up a paintbrush and some paint. Now, Kai, you say, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were talented artists. What if I lack any artistic ability? I say, who cares? It doesn't matter. I can barely make a recognizable stick man. And while I happen to be married to a very talented painter, I have a hard enough time pinning him down to help with small jobs like changing light bulbs, never mind painting me a mural. Being creative does not require a skilled hand, thankfully.

To give my narrow stairway some interest, I painted brushstrokes of Farrow & Ball colours from sample pots and then wrote the names of the paint colour beside each with a Sharpie. Farrow & Ball seemed like an obvious choice for this particular story since it's a historical paint company (and actually one of the sponsors of Charleston House). And they have a curated selection of incredible paint colours with some terrific names: Arsenic, Elephant's Breath, and my son's favourite, Babouche, to name a few.

2. Embrace colour and pattern. You don't have to go overboard here or go too bold. Many of the paint colours at Charleston House have a dusty quality — this likely has more to do with age than anything else — but there's something in the quality of these paint colours that make Charleston House seem much more livable than, say, a bright blue and red Mexican hacienda. Pattern can be as simple as a lovely paisley throw over a plain slipcovered piece of furniture.

3. Live with the things you love. Curate and display treasured belongings. Artwork (whether it be professional or a child's finger painting), photos and keepsakes (your grandmother's clock or a memento from a special time) should be put out somewhere where they can be admired. Again, you don't have to go overboard here. Things can start looking like an episode of Hoarders. (I'll admit, I have to edit my home continually as things sometimes start to veer in this direction.)

The Bloomsbury look may not be for everyone, but it's withstood the test of time with its warm mix of classic and creative. Try it out!

Pick up our March 2015 issue for more on this style.

Photo credits:
1-7. Charleston House


Muji Toronto: Our Editors' Favourite Finds

<p>Morgan Michener</p>
Muji Toronto: Our Editors' Favourite Finds
Morgan Michener blogs about the Japanese store.

When the invite came to attend the opening of the first Muji store in Canada, myself and a few colleagues were very excited. We were all familiar with the Japanese brand, and love the well-designed, no-frills approach to quality that the company stands for and executes so very well. A trip to New York City was not complete without a visit to Muji.

The media party last November did not disappoint. We were greeted at the door by Mr. Matsumoto, the Canadian PR representative, and ushered into the new store with open arms and Japanese hospitality.

It's definitely a new staple in Toronto for well-designed basics, and worth checking out if you're in the area. It's located across from the Eaton Centre in the Atrium mall.

Here's a list of some of the items we picked up:

Margot Austin bought a great cream woolly sweater and go-to basic white T-shirts.

Lauren Petroff picked up a fab blue and cream duvet cover (which has washed beautifully). It has ties in the inside corners to keep your duvet in place and a zipper instead of the usual buttons.

Sarah Hartill stocked up on great office supplies, paper products and pens.

And I went a bit crazy and bought a ton of stuff including my new favourite wine glasses. They're stemless with a great modern shape and do well in the dishwasher.

Oh, and a hot tip: I will now and forever wear "right angle socks" — thanks Kai Ethier for the head-ups. They are amazing!

For more on Muji, flip to our Style Files section in the March 2015 issue.

Photo credits:
1-4, 6. Morgan Michener
5. Washed Cotton Duvet Cover Q Blue Check, Muji
7. Women Good Fit Angle Rolled Socked, Muji


How To Travel Like A Designer: Bangkok

<p>Corinne Cécilia</p>
How To Travel Like A Designer: Bangkok
Corinne Cécilia's tips on seeing the Thai city.

The Kingdom of Thailand is often a great source of inspiration when it comes to creating exotic interiors that are both serene and luxurious. Discerning fashion and interior designers hunt for local treasures like traditional Thai silk, which has exceptional texture, motives and colours. Each piece of cloth is hand-woven, making it truly unique and non-replicable. And its remarkable sheen combines two colours, one for the warp and one for the weft, making the final result more like artwork than fabric.

It isn't surprising, then, that contemporary artist Pierre Bellemare was enchanted by this ancient tradition. So much so that he now imprints some of his colourful paintings on silk scarves. And we love his artworks that energize minimalist spaces and invite us to explore other worlds.

Along with music, travel is essential to Pierre who enjoys immersing himself in different cultures to renew his creative juices. While he travels for pleasure, Bellemare also exhibits and sells his artwork in several countries. He loves Bangkok so much that we were curious to discover his personal vision of Asia's Venice — a megapole that is deeply attached to its heritage while firmly embracing the future.

Corinne Cécilia: You seem to have a personal interest in Bangkok...
Pierre Bellemare: In my view, the more you know it, the more you learn to appreciate and observe the beauty of this city. We are used to Bangkok as an international transit place for travellers, but it is truly splendid underneath its treasures — the colours, the smells and smiles of all the local people. These hues have greatly influenced my recent paintings. Bangkok is colourful in so many ways!

CC: Where do you like to stay?
PB: At the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel. Nothing but refinement and beautiful design, and the breakfast is as sublime. The location is very central, near the SkyTrain, which is perfect for travelling through the city.

CC: Where do you like to have dinner?
PB: Bangkok is known for its quality and quantity of food, accessible everywhere. For lunch, I recommend Or Tor Kor Market. The food is authentic and top-quality. Furthermore, it's one of the 4 best food markets in the world. As for dinner, I would treat myself with a Kiew Wan Gai Phad Hang, a green curry chicken, at the Nara Erawan.

CC: Where do you like browsing?
PB: Bangkok is close to paradise when it comes to shopping for clothes or home goods. The Jim Thompson House & Museum is a place you mustn't miss. Jim Thompson was enrolled in the American military, returned to Bangkok after the war and decided to make silk his own passion. Located in the heart of the city, Jim Thompson's house has tours of the living space and garden and tutorials of silk production, from breeding and raising worms to weaving the most beautiful fabrics.

CC: Where do you go to relax?
PB: Bangkok is full of little parks and temples. Seeing the Wat Saket temple at sunset, on the top of a small hill, really touched me. To smell the incense, to see the monks, to hear the prayers and the bells, really makes it the perfect spot for a calming retreat. And nothing beats an evening stroll on the Chao Phraya river. You can enjoy the temples and the city without being in the bustle of the downtown core.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
PB: Art is accessible everywhere in Bangkok but not always in its usual way. The ultimate experience is certainly the Grand Palace. So much delicate creative work in one single space is definitely breathtaking. Another absolute must-see would be the Wat Arun Buddhist temple: going up its 318 steps will take you to the top, where you can enjoy a unique panoramic view of the city.

CC: What would be your recommendation for local transport?
PB: The Bangkok SkyTrain, undoubtedly: it is easily accessible and has air conditioning, which gives you a welcome break from the heat of the city. You can also enjoy a nice view of the city from the top. I recommend taking the long tail boats and, as incredible as it may sound, a bike ride with Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours. A must do!! Finally, take a tuk-tuk: you can find them everywhere in Bangkok and they are really efficient. Great fun!

Corinne's travel tip: Visiting Bangkok during the dry season, from November to April, will spare you the heavy rains and moist heat of the monsoon season. Take a tour of some trade shows, such as the Thailand International Fashion Fair (from March 11-15, 2015 at the IMPACT Exhibition Centre of Bangkok). Closer to home, join the Thai community in your neighbourhood as they celebrate Songkran, the Buddhist New Year and Water festival from April 13 to 15, 2015.

For more on Thai style, read Gwen Matsell's blog post.

Photo credits:
1, 8, 11. Photography by Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom
2-7, 9-10. Photography by Pierre Bellemare


House & Home's IKEA Kitchen At IDS15

<p>Seema Persaud</p>
House & Home's IKEA Kitchen At IDS15
Discover our British Eclectic kitchen!

At this year's Interior Design Show in Toronto, H&H designed a kitchen for the Ikea booth using the new Sektion kitchen system

Suzanne Dimma and Sarah Hartill carefully crafted a British Eclectic–style kitchen with Joel Bray, and the results are simply stunning! Here's how they described the kitchen:

"Inspired by cosy panelled libraries, we layered soulful materials and rich colours that give the kitchen a sense of history and romance — white oak herringbone floors, matte black and brass hardware, a vintage stone-top table — then added a little modern quirk with statement lighting and accessories. Lots of smart storage solutions ensure everything is always at your fingertips: set behind clear glass doors, a walk-in pantry is far from hidden, and a classic rolling ladder makes it easy to reach the ceiling-height cabinets. High-tech appliances, a TV and an iPad deliver all the speed and convenience of the multimedia world, but the overall effect is warm and eccentric in a charming British way."

Get an up-close look at the kitchen this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (booth #926).

Here are a few of your photos on Instagram: 



This two toned kitchen, wood & old world - like tile just exudes warmth... yes? So lovely! Designed by #houseandhome & #ikeacanada for #ids15

A photo posted by Interior Design Master Class (@interiordesignmasterclass) onJan 23, 2015 at 5:08am PST



Visiting the show? Tag your H&H kitchen pics with @houseandhomemag on Instagram using #IDS15.

For more photos from IDS15, check out our Twitter and Instagram feed. Plus, see Kimberley Brown's favourite finds at the show.




Photo credits:
1-3. via @IKEACanada on Twitter

IDS15 Highlights

<p>Kimberley Brown</p>
IDS15 Highlights
Kimberley Brown reports from the design show.

TGIF! The acronym has special meaning this week, as the Interior Design Show (January 22 to 25) opens for business at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre today. If you're attending this weekend — and you should — here are a few things you don't want to miss:

Missoni Home

Warning: Missoni's wildly patterned sofas and ottomans might make you look at your staid, solid-coloured three-seater with a pang of regret. Giorgio Jelmini, Operations Manager for Missoni Home, revealed that the Italian brand's famous stripes were a happy accident: the first knitting machine the founder bought in 1953 could only produce stripes, so velato! (As they say in Italy.) Check out the timeline that traces Missoni's path from fashion to home to hotels, then pony-up for some pillows at the Missoni pop-up shop, funds from which will support Habitat for Humanity.


This is a new group exhibition at the show that features four artisans producing beautiful, carefully-crafted, small-run pieces. 1925 Workbench specializes in barn-style sliding doors that look great in any space. Husband-and-wife team My Le and Rock made their first door for their own small home in Toronto. When friends and then friends of friends kept asking for one (or two or three) for their own homes, the duo turned their custom-made doors and hardware into a business.

Heidi Earnshaw is also exhibiting in the Makers section. Heidi makes gorgeous wood furniture, which H&H has featured in past issues. At IDS, she's showing a marble-topped dresser with brass legs that immediately went on my wish list.

Heidi also dabbles in smaller pieces; the candlestick holders in her booth are the wood molds of ones that will eventually be cast in metal. I know, you're waiting for me to tell you about the awesome ceramics in her booth. They're by Susie Osler and look even better in person.


In this picture, my thumb is doing its best to model just how thin Sony's new 4.7 mm-thick television is. It will be available in May in 55" and 65" sizes, and is so light it can hang on the wall like a picture frame.

Ikea/House & Home

This year, H&H teamed up with Ikea to design a kitchen and the results are stunning, if we do say so ourselves. The kitchen uses Ikea's new Sektion kitchen system, which will be introduced in stores in February, and is packed with gorgeous ideas and products. I managed to snap this shot early Thursday morning when the space was being photographed. Click here for more info on the kitchen.

The details reveal clever styling tricks, like remembering to include art in the kitchen.

There's even a walk-in pantry that reminds us that storage can and should be stylish.


Canadian designer Philippe Malouin appeals to our inner child with his playful interactive swing installation for Caesarstone.

Each swing seat is made from a different sample of Caesarstone and is the perfect place to take a break and put your feet up — waaaay up — before continuing on to discover all the other great designs at the show.

Check out the H&H talks on Sunday starting at noon. Lynda Reeves, Suzanne Dimma, Mark Challen and my fellow editors will be speaking about everything design and answering questions from the audience and social media. Plus, check out this guide of extras from their talks.

Photo credits:
1-10. Kimberley Brown


Timeless Beauty Contest — The Winners!

<p>Seema Persaud</p>
Timeless Beauty Contest — The Winners!
See what they won!

Last year, House & Home partnered with Nexxus to bring our readers the Timeless Beauty Contest. Those who entered had a chance to win an exclusive hair makeover with celebrity hairstylist Kevin Mancuso, and a design-lover's tour of Toronto's most exciting style destinations with Suzanne Dimma, plus $500 cash.

Johanna Prentice of Ontario was the lucky winner (we had thousands of entries!) and she brought her sister along for the prize! Here's a highlight of their shopping trip and makeover in December:

Suzanne started the shopping trip up in Toronto's Castlefield Design District. First up, a visit to the brand-new Elte MKT followed by a stop at Elte, where Suzanne fell in love with this brass canopy bed. Stunning.

Over at The Door Store, Suzanne spotted these vintage brass doorknobs, and more antique finds at Kantelberg + Co.

Then they were off to to Mjölk, where Ilse Crawford furniture had just arrived. Suzanne couldn't resist picking up some Christmas gifts, too.

Over in Liberty Village, they stopped by West Elm where Suzanne spotted this chic campaign dresser.

They wrapped up their shopping trip at EQ3, which was loaded with more cool finds.

After a packed morning, they enjoyed lunch at Momofuku.

Later that week, Johanna and her sister were treated to a hair makeover by Kevin at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Love the baskets overflowing with Nexxus haircare products!

The Nexxus team didn't stop at their hair — a bit of makeup completed the look.

Here are the sisters with Kevin!

And here they are all dressed up after the makeover.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!

Photo credits:
1-5. Suzanne Dimma
Courtesy of Harbinger


Buffalo Check Love

<p>Margot Austin</p>
Buffalo Check Love
Margot Austin's favourite ways to use this print.

Just as this outfit made its way down the Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2015 runway, we were all in the process of transitioning into cold weather clothes and decorating ideas for Winter 2014/2015. The cycles of fashion and trends can be bewildering! But it occurred to me that buffalo check — and in particular this black-and-white version — is an all-weather favourite that can take on so many different moods. A crop top is definitely not in the cards for me, but a pencil skirt with the print on the bias and spectator loafers — that I could do!

But given current temps, I'd happily cozy up to a check-clad wing chair with a wooly throw and big mug of tea.

Then again, look how fun this mid-century style Jack Chair from Schoolhouse Electric is. I think I might like it even more than the wing chair.

If I were the kind of person who had a ski lodge in the French Alps, I'd also be the kind of person to install buffalo check carpet with emerald green velvet furniture just as designers Joseph Dirand and India Mahdavi did at L'Apogée Courchevel hotel.

On the walls? Sure, why not? It can be tricky to work with a pattern this bossy. I think it's best as either the only print in the room or paired with just one other equally gutsy pattern of similar scale. This striped chair holds it's own in this Bierly-Drake designed space.

Do you remember our Ikea kitchen winner from the October 2014 issue of House & Home? Senior design editor Sarah Hartill really knocked this design out of the park. Her pairing of the bold Verdure Zoffany wallpaper with a check roman blind is the perfect expression of the homeowners' eclectic taste. Best tip: the blind fabric is a steal at $10/meter from Ikea!

If you've got white slipcovered furniture just add a throw cushion or throw to give your space a little dose of Scandinavian country.

And one last thought: It was just a happy accident that Katie Hayden's post on decorating rooms for boys also featured a room done in black-and-white buffalo check. Like I said, versatile, right?

Photo credits:
1. Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2015 runway,
2. Maik Rositzki
3. Jack Chair, Schoolhouse Electric
4. L'Apogée Courchevel via A-Gent of Style blog
5. New England Home, photography by Michael Partenio
6. House & Home October 2014 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
7a. KariFisherDesign, Etsy
7b. Buffalo Plaid Fringed Throw, Schoolhouse Electric


Bedrooms For Boys

<p>Katie Hayden</p>
Bedrooms For Boys
Katie Hayden's roundup of fun spaces.

I have a new baby nephew coming any day now, and he'll eventually share a bedroom with his almost-2-year-old brother — which has me thinking about boys' bedrooms.

I've always been more partial to warm colours, and I have two girls myself, so my comfort zone is rooms full of pinks, reds and oranges. (Though we painted my girls' room in Farrow & Ball's Skylight (205), which is a really livable pale blue that sets off the bright colours.)

It turns out there are piles of great boys' bedrooms out there — even ones that woo a romantic like me, who thinks whimsy and fun are essentials in any child's room!

My favourites have rustic leanings; they feel almost like you'd find them in a log house in the woods or a summer camp cabin.

Maps always inject loads of colour and pattern, inspire wonder and wanderlust and are fun and educational. In Desmond's Ottawa bedroom, his mom Giulia Doyle set off the blues, yellows and greens with hits of bright red in the wall-mounted lamp, sock monkey stuffie and army-style blanket.

This room takes the travel theme a step further, with the addition of vintage suitcases, a steamship trunk, a stuffed giraffe and kangaroo and scientific illustrations of exotic birds. An old iron bed, understated bed linens and grey-on-grey Union Jack pillow balance the look.

I'm sold ... bright green is great for a kid's room! It's fresh and strong, but not at all overbearing. And set off by buffalo-check bed linens, it looks mod and playful. A patterned rug, strapping-topped stool and toy car add depth and character. I'm not the biggest fan of taxidermy, but it works here — and, of course, it's not real.

The worn wooden beds in this room remind me of old-fashioned sleighs. Along with the painted-wood floors, checked and striped bedding and bright red toadstool, they give the room a fairy-tale quality. And there's lots of space on the floor to flop down and play cars or colour.

I'm not certain many boys play cowboys anymore, but they did when I was a child. I'm pretty sure my nephew, Rafa, would find it fun to have thundering horses on his walls! A horse-patterned bedspread and saddle-blanket-covered headboard cushions continue the theme, while the canary yellow of the bed frame and side table clash a little bit with the rest of the room, keeping it from feeling too perfect.

Animals are a universally loved theme for children's rooms. While the wolf cub on this bedding is charming, the look is graphic, crisp and clean. First-aid-style accents bring in layers of details. (This bedding was from an H&M home collection. I can't find it available anywhere now, but H&M's wild cat bedding has a similar look, as does ByNord's wolf bedding.)

For more inspiration, check out our gallery of Editors' Favourite Kids' Rooms.

Photo credits:
1. Apartment Therapy, photography by Giulia Doyle
2. Ty Pennington
3. Interieur Inspiratie
4. Light Locations
5. Poligom, photography by Lucas Allen/GMA Images
6. Met Melk & Suiker


How To Travel Like A Designer: Basque Country

<p>Corinne Cécilia</p>
How To Travel Like A Designer: Basque Country
Corinne Cécilia's travel tips.

If you like all things European, consider a trip to Basque Country, a fascinating region for lifestyle and design. Spread across the French-Spanish border and carved by nature, it is a scenic region where rich arts traditions flow into modern inventiveness. Fashion designers Paco Rabanne and Cristóbal Balenciaga are among contemporary Basque celebrities.

Drawing on ancient know-how, local artisans personify the Basque creative genius. Just take a look at Cazaux ceramics and pottery, Amestoy jewels, Alki Furniture or Blunt Concepts — that kind of craftsmanship alone makes it worth a trip to Biarritz. The coastal city, cherished by European royalty and tastemakers since the 19th century, is also famous for its gorgeous, eclectic architecture.

Stunning historic buildings make Basque Country very attractive to style-conscious travellers. Banking on that rich heritage, sportswear designer Serge Blanco renovated a charming castle into a paragon of hospitality: the Château de Brindos. Located near the long beaches of Anglet, this quiet estate's enchanting surroundings will seduce you right away, as will the elegant rooms. Suites with a vast terrace are particularly romantic, while narrow spiral staircases leading to secret passages take you back in time, straight to France's chivalrous past! Take a room with a view on the private huge lake and stroll in the forest, or enjoy the luxurious hotel's spa, gym and outdoor pool. A serene and magical atmosphere, enhanced by the friendly staff's warm welcome, makes Brindos one of Relais & Châteaux's gems.

Gastronomy is the other reason you must visit the southwest coast of France. Among the very well rated local restaurants, Christophe Grosjean's kitchen offers an exquisite menu that can be enjoyed within the confine of a classy decor or outside, on a sun-drenched terrace. The award-winning chef elevates the taste of home-grown products in a way that will make you want to go back. After a successful career in California, Chef Grosjean came back to share his creative passion at Château de Brindos, and each dish is truly an intense pleasure for the palate and the eye. Your evening will be heightened as Sommelier Sylvain Desheulles takes you on a discovery to another world — where wine pairing is not just a science but an art form, too — while the staff helps make the experience unforgettable.

When visiting Basque Country, one can't help but notice the impeccable condition of houses, even old ones. Remote farms, castles and townhouses are extremely well preserved and decorated — both inside and out. The Basque people take pride in maintaining their homes, I learned. "They like to present well and be neat," says master glass artist Françoise Saliou, the owner of La Pierre de Lune — a store/workshop on avenue Dulut in Montreal. A native Basque, Françoise uses her precious craft to restore ancient stained glass windows, thus helping preserve historic buildings. Her expertise earned her a Special Heritage Award in 2004, as artisan of the year. We spoke with Françoise about her home country.

Corinne Cécilia: When in Basque Country, where do you like to stay?
Françoise Saliou: If I didn't have a home there, I would stay at the Grand Palais in Biarritz, facing the shore, or somewhere in the backcountry, in-between the mountains and the sea, in Ainhoa. I love the mental space and physical energy the ocean provides.

CC: Where do you like to go out for a drink?
FS: I enjoy having a drink anywhere by the sea (in Biarritz, Bidart, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne) — everywhere in Basque Country because it's a very fun region, with many fairs and local events.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
FS: I love local exhibitions and must-see sites such the Cathedral in Bayonne and the Abbadia castle in Hendaye. I also enjoy visiting artisans' shows and food fairs in villages, where you can enjoy authentic Basque cake and cheese, shop for makilas (shepherd's walking sticks), espadrilles (traditional sneakers) and typical Basque fabric.

Corinne's travel tips: Honour your New Year's resolution and treat yourself to a revitalizing stay in one of France's most famous thalassotherapy institutes, at the heart of Biarritz. Launched in 1979 by former cycling champion Louison Bobet, who had discovered the huge benefits of seawater to treat bad injuries, Le Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa Sea & Spa is a benchmark in the field of marine cures, and a beautifully designed space. Unwind in their relaxation lagoon, as you lay back in the dark and float in a basin filled with saline water, slowly surrendering any bodily tensions. Take a swim in a warm seawater pool, and finish the day off with a well-being treatment — a re-energizing wrap or a draining massage. Take advantage of expert medical staff and a healthy dietary menu offered at Le Miramar. Staying there for a week is ideal to enjoy a holistic rejuvenation and improve your health, vitality, nutrition and looks. In addition to a mental and physical boost, the high quality treatments and services will leave you with blissful memories.

Photo credits:
1a. Photography by Le Doare?, via City of Biarritz
1b. Photography by Sea Museum Aquarium Biarritz, courtesy of Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board
1c. Photo courtesy of Château de Brindos
2. Photo courtesy of Lucky Studio, via Cazaux
3-4. Photos courtesy of Château de Brindos
5. Photography by Kelly Chomat
6. Photography by Jean-Jacques Brochard, courtesy of Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board
7. Photography by B. Bloch, courtesy of Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board
8. Photography by Laurent Reiz, courtesy of Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board
9a. Le Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa Sea & Spa, photography by Fabrice Rambert
9b. Le Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa Sea & Spa, photography by Photomobile
9c. Le Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa Sea & Spa, photography by Fabrice Rambert


Prince Edward County's Drake Devonshire

<p>Kimberley Brown</p>
Prince Edward County's Drake Devonshire
Kimberley Brown visits the trendy new hotel.

"Welcome to the Drake Devonshire. Would you like to try one of our signature cocktails?" If first impressions can be trusted, I was going to like the Drake Devonshire. A lot.

A bright yellow door on the far side of a cobblestone courtyard offers a sunny welcome to visitors who've made the two-plus hour drive to Prince Edward County from Toronto or further. Inside, opposing adjectives like "quaint" and "cool" compete for your affection. Part of the hotel occupies a renovated 19th century iron foundry, onto which ERA Architects added new light-filled spaces. To blend them together, Toronto designer John Tong of +tongtong layered the interiors with quirky vintage finds and colourful modern accents. The effect is like being at a family cottage that the grandkids have updated for a new generation while preserving nostalgic elements of the past.

The staffer greeting me with the tray of cocktails isn't a permanent perk for arriving guests. I'm there for a media preview, which aims to give me the experience of a weekend stay in a few short hours. So while I don't get to sip a cappuccino on the large back deck while watching the morning mist lift off Lake Ontario, I do get a personal tour of the hotel with owner Jeff Stober, John Tong and Mia Nielsen, who curated all of the artwork.

I discover Jeff is an antiques junkie. He gets excited all over again recounting the story of how he snagged the vintage secretary desk that now functions as a hostess stand. It turns out he's a regular at the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts and has a fine-tuned system for buying, storing and shipping found treasures. I secretly start plotting how I can tag along on his next trip, so I can discover all of his tips and tricks.

We wander into the newly built A-frame pavilion, which is hosting a raw bar piled high with fresh seafood prepared by Chef Matt DeMille, who graced the kitchens at Toronto's Canoe, Parts & Labour and Enoteca Sociale, to name a few, before moving to the country. Later, in the lake-view dining room, he'll treat us to a multi-course dinner that I happily finish every last bite of, despite having said "yes!" to the countless snacks offered throughout the afternoon.

Jeff notes that he loves the pavilion's A-frame structure — "It looks like it has been here forever," — but I've only got eyes for the custom mural by Brooklyn-based Faile, which covers one wall and looks like a collage of street art, album covers and wallpaper scraps. Mia has placed art to surprise and charm guests: New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld's sculpture made of vintage paper is hung so it can be enjoyed from two different perspectives (looking up at it from the main floor and looking directly into it from the stairwell to the second floor), fragments of poetry by Canadian Al Purdy are written directly on walls, and vintage paintings updated with cheeky details by Toronto collective Team Macho hang in nearly every room. It's soon clear to me that Mia has the coolest job in the world.

John has a pretty good gig, too. He was part of the team that designed the original Drake Hotel in downtown Toronto, so he knew exactly how to tweak its DNA for the country. Graphic patterned floor tiles anchor the main floor common areas. In the guest rooms, Jeff's vintage furniture is paired with custom platform beds sporting beadboard headboards, colour-blocked walls and bold area rugs. These are spaces you can comfortably inhabit whether you're dressed for the beach or dinner — and here, one outfit will probably do for both.

Before I have to head home to the city, we gather around the beach-side fire pit and watch the sun go down. A guy playing guitar on the deck accompanies the fire's familiar crackle and pop, and I find myself dreamily planning my return.

Photo credits:
1-8. Kayla Rocca, courtesy of Drake Devonshire
9. Kimberley Brown



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