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Mastering the Gin & Tonic

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/author/10433921">Eric Vellend</a></p>
Mastering the Gin & Tonic
Eric Vellend offers two drink recipes.

A gin and tonic is a very personal drink. There is no "best" recipe or "perfect G&T." I like a one-to-two ratio of gin to tonic, but others will find that too potent. I also prefer a G&T with lime, but in the U.K. they often use lemon. I’ve broken it down into its two basic components and given a couple of recipes to get you started. But if you enjoy this libation as much as I do, I would encourage you to delve deep into the subject and create a gin and tonic that makes you go "Hmmm."

Gin

Compared to the great wall of vodka, the gin shelf at most liquor stores is anemic. That’s slowly changing as an increasing number of premium bottlesmuscle in on the classic bar brands.

Gin is essentially vodka (i.e. a neutral spirit) flavoured with an array of botanicals, the defining one being juniper berries. There are no good or bad gins; only ones you like. My go-to brand is Hendrick's, a Scottish gin distinguished by an infusion of Bulgarian roses and cucumber. It's higher in alcohol than the average gin, so I use a little more tonic to compensate. I'm also a big fan of Bombay Sapphire: its juniper is front and centre, and there is a complimentary note of liquorice. Finally, Dillon's, a new micro-distillery in Niagara, Ontario, makes a unique gin that's unfiltered, floral and complex.


Tonic

Most gin and tonics in this country are made with either Canada Dry or Schweppes, a pair of tonic stalwarts available at grocery and corner stores from coast to coast. If you want to up your G&T game, there are two lesser-known brands worth seeking out. The first is Fentimans, a century-old British soft drink maker, whose tonic comes in an old-timey, brown bottle straight out of a Victorian apothecary. It's on the sweet side with a floral, citrusy flavour profile that it gets from lemongrass and lime leaf. It's delicious on its own, and goes extremely well with Dillon's gin. Also from the U.K., Fever Tree has become my house tonic. It's smooth, balanced and herbaceous with a lovely liquorice kick, complimenting both Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick's. Fentimans and Fever Tree are expensive, but, in my opinion, worth it.

Recipes


Eric's Gin & Tonic Recipe

Ice cubes  
2 oz. Bombay Sapphire
gin  
4 oz. Fever Tree tonic water, chilled  
1 lime wedge

Step 1: Chill a 10-oz. Collins glass.

Step 2: Fill glass with ice. Pour in gin. Top with tonic water. Give drink a light stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Serves 1.


Hendrick's & Tonic Recipe

Ice cubes  
2 oz. Hendrick’s gin
6 oz. tonic water, chilled
3 thin slices cucumber

Step 1: Chill a 12-oz. highball glass.

Step 2: Fill glass with ice. Pour in gin. Top with tonic water. Give drink a light stir. Garnish with cucumber. Serves 1.

Get more drink recipes.

Photo sources:
Eric Vellend

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How To Travel Like A Designer: New York

author: 
<p>Corinne Cécilia</p>
How To Travel Like A Designer: New York
Les Ensembliers guide to The Big Apple.

Travelling for business and pleasure is a great source of inspiration for designer Richard Ouellette and architect Maxime Vandal, of the Montreal-based firm Les Ensembliers. (Tour their stunning country home in Quebec's Eastern Townships.) The creative pair’s frequent trips to the United States add a certain American chic to their look.

While interior decorating in the USA was shaped by European influences — with steady waves of immigrants bringing old world decorative traditions along ever since the early 1600s — contemporary designers have been increasingly under the influence of globalization and American pop culture, a reflection of a forward-looking nation driven by the dream of a better life.

In a way, this evolution meets with the work of Les Ensembliers, known for their modern interpretation of traditional styles. Richard and Maxime often visit the Big Apple, where they acquire some of the ideas and unique finds that you may have seen in our pages.

We asked Maxime and Richard to share their favourite hangouts in the city that never sleeps.

CC: Where do you normally stay?
Richard Ouellette & Maxime Vandal:
At the Surrey, because of its great location at the heart of the Upper East Side, where most of the city’s design stores and showrooms are located, not to mention its proximity to all the best museums.

CC: Where do you like to dine?
RO & MV:
We have breakfast at the Whitney Museum of American Art to enjoy its relaxed atmosphere and modern space. We have lunch at Balthazar, for their oysters and the vibrant bistro vibe. For dinner, we like the Caravaggio restaurant, just steps away from the Surrey hotel. We then take our evening walk, like residents of the Upper East Side do, daydreaming about the townhouse we could buy and renovate.


CC: Where do you go for drinks?
RO & MV: We don’t go out that much at night…. Our days can be quite long, and dinners stretch out.

CC: Where do you like to shop?
RO & MV:
With its 18 floors of showrooms, the Decoration & Design Building is the spot to start the day. We then cross the street over to Holly Hunt and John Rosselli Antiques. Treillage is a must-see place along the way.

We then stop at ABC Carpet & Home on Broadway. We finish the day in Soho, and the Green Street neighbourhood, which is full of trendy design stores. Do visit Ralph Pucci if you can (by appointment only): it is the ultimate showroom experience!

CC: Where do you go to relax?
RO & MV:
Outside of the peak season, we run off to the Hamptons for a day. An hour or two by car and you’re in Southampton. We love the seaside, beautiful houses and lobster rolls. The museum dedicated to Jackson Pollock is a must-see (by appointment only). Very inspiring!


CC: What are some of your favourite places?
RO & MV:
Central Park, of course – during the cherry blossoms, the last week in April! The rooftop of the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea is also a fantastic spot.

CC: Do you have a favourite airline?
RO & MV:
No, we prefer to get there by car. It gives us a certain freedom.

Corinne's reading pick: American Design, by Russell Flinchum. Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Browse a gallery of interiors by Les Ensembliers.

Read more travel blog posts here.

Photo credits:
1. André Rider for Maison & Demeure May 2014
2. Svein-Magne Tunli via tunliweb.no
3. Jimmie Martin
4, 5, 10 and 11. Les Ensembliers
6. Decoration and Design Building
7. Holly Hunt — HHNY Showroom
8. ABC Carpet & Home
9. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center

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Sarah Bancroft's Favourite Palm Springs Hotels

author: 
<p>Sarah Bancroft</p>
Sarah Bancroft's Favourite Palm Springs Hotels
How these hotels influenced her home reno.

We feature Sarah Bancroft's cool, modernist Palm Springs house in our August 2014 issue. The B.C.-based founder of Vitamin Daily — an online lifestyle magazine — recently renovated this winter escape with her husband. Sarah reflects on how the local hotels she stayed in during the reno ended up influencing her design decisions.

We've been going to Palm Springs for 9 years — first as tourists, then as house hunters, and most recently as home renovators, all of which required hotel stays. Even now we drop by these glam spots for drinks, spa visits, or just to walk the gardens.

The Parker Hotel
The very first time we walked in we ran into Will Ferrell at the front desk and French Marie Claire shooting in the pool. These days it's Leonardo DiCaprio (who just bought a house in Palm Springs) who you'll see on the patio during Coachella. The gardens are designed by Givenchy, the spa (Palm Springs Yacht Club) is amazing and the decor is designed by Jonathan Adler. Pretty much a Palm Springs masterpiece.

Takeaway: We would have done it anyway, but we have a pétanque court at our house too.

The Horizon

Definitely our favourite. Small and intimate with amazing modernist architecture, it was recently purchased by Tom Ford's interior designer who is going to revert to its original name, L'Horizon. We fully approve.

Takeaway: Our home's architect, William Krisel, stays here when he attends Palm Springs Modernism Week so it makes sense we would love it too. It also convinced us to keep our vintage pool ladder, just as they had.

The Sparrows
The owners are an entrepreneur and former Calvin Klein model who have done several hotel and home projects in Palm Springs. We clicked with both their attitude and early modernist aesthetic, and drop by their bar for a glass of Lillet when we're in town.

Takeaway: It's hard to stop at just one (home reno that is.)

The Viceroy
We go by their restaurant Citron for a chopped salad and glass of Rosé near the end of our trip and eavesdrop on the poolside conversations.

Takeaway: We were inspired by designer Kelly Wearstler's decorative mirrors when we designed our shield-shaped bathroom ones.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club
We've never actually stayed here (too much of a party scene for us) but we go for the steak salad (to take on the plane) and the first time we went we sat beside the late Ace Hotel founder Alex Calderwood. Their Monday Sissy Bingo night is a must-do Palm Springs experience: trust us.

Takeaway: Our home's army green sunshade umbrella was an extra one from the Ace's renovation.

The Movie Colony Hotel
Our very first trip to Palm Springs we stayed here (I was 5 months pregnant, so an adults-only, cheap and cheerful environment was a babymoon must).

Takeaway: This trip was when we started photographing houses we loved and fantasizing about someday owning one.

Photo sources:

1. The Parker Hotel
2. The Horizon
3. The Sparrows
4. The Viceroy
5. via CN Traveller
6. The Movie Colony Hotel

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Suzanne's Guest Bathroom Reno

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/suzanne-dimma">Suzanne Dimma</a></p>
Suzanne's Guest Bathroom Reno
Should she paint her tub black?

We are underway with our upstairs reno and one thing we've already finished is the small guest bathroom.

This is what it looked like a few months ago. I still love the vintage sink that I got at a yard sale over 15 years ago but it was too low and rusted, so I had to get rid of it. Plus the trad shape really didn't work with the mix I have going on in the rest of the house. I wound up giving it to a friend of mine who's in the middle of a Victorian historic restoration so it will be right at home.

The other thing I had to get rid of was the glass-block window — way too '80s for me.

I went with a Duravit floating sink to open up some floor space and unlacquered brass fixtures from Kohler for a more vintage feel.

But the highlight for me is the new wallpaper, Ocelot from Farrow & Ball. That and the new sash window instantly transformed the room. I framed the window in 6"-wide lengths of marble for a polished look that tied in with the floor.

Only one thing left to decide and that is whether or not to paint the tub black. I'm on the fence... what do you think?

Photo sources:
Suzanne Dimma

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Super Stylish Takes On Kids' Play Tables

author: 
<p>Katie Hayden</p>
Super Stylish Takes On Kids' Play Tables
Katie Hayden's smart ideas for a family essential.

We have a small, raw pine table and matching pair of chairs on our front porch. They're dotted with glitter paint, marker smudges and stickers. The chairs are a wobbly (they're desperately in need of having all their screws tightened). And they just might be the most used pieces of furniture in my whole house. This morning, my girls dragged the chairs into the living room for eating breakfast at the coffee table. On Sunday evening, they were out on the front lawn — where the glitter paint was used to make Fathers' Day cards. Last weekend, they hosted a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. They've seen it all: puzzles, tea parties, colouring books, Grade 3 math workbooks.

The set cost me about $25 at Ikea 7 years ago — perhaps the best $25 I've ever spent on the kids. Here's a similar version, they seem to have discontinued the ones we have. Here are 15 other great ways to get your money's worth from children's play table and chairs.

1. Cover it with oilcloth
My colleague Jaimie Nathan spotted this idea on the Yvestown blog years ago and promptly had a sweet floral oilcloth cover stitched up for the play table in her living room. Hers is removable (because her little table was an expensive piece she didn't want to put holes in), but if you're not worried about that, staple the oilcloth in place so it will protect the tabletop from stains and spills and is easy to wipe down.

2. Use it to differentiate kid and adult spaces
This handsome version works as part of a shelving installation in the corner of a living space, with upper shelves displaying elegant, grown-up accessories — and keeping them away from little fingers — while offering plenty of interesting playthings to keep kids busy down below. Outfit play tables with an array of books, craft supplies and toys so they're extra-inviting to busy toddlers and preschoolers.

3. Paint it out to match the trim
Another way to make a play table work in a home's public spaces is to re-imagine it to suit its surroundings. To make a wee play table fit in in her rather traditional West Yorkshire, England, home, artist Anna Roberts painted it in a soft robin's-egg blue to match her elegant mouldings and built-ins.

4. Coordinate it with your child's style
In a pretty in pink-wallpapered girl's room, a quiet, vintage-y table set works well with the casually hung own illustrations and collections of wee Calico Critters, while graphic black chairs and a bold red table complement the aesthetic in the modern white and grey room.

5. ...Or make it suit your style
The play table in her children's bedroom has an authentic mid-century modern look that resonates with Charleston, S.C., interior designer Angie Hranowsky — and it's harmonious with the look she's carried through the entire house. The table is actually a new piece from Room & Board.

6. Stretch it out to fit a crowd
While my tiny Ikea table really can't accommodate more than my two girls, these ones — at least when they're pulled out from the wall — have space for at last four wee crafters. The cube stools with this console-style desk all tuck neatly away, saving space, and can be turned on their sides to fit smaller and larger kids.

7. Go for a vintage vibe
Old wooden gymnasium benches make great kid-level play spaces. Press one into service as a table to seat three or four kids — and pair with mismatched chairs for a quirky salvaged look.

8. Pair it with a chalkboard for a schoolroom feel
Coat a wall in chalkboard paint — like Swedish stylist Emma Persson Lagerberg did here — or the surface of the table itself, as Australian furniture designer Mark Tuckey did on his Kid's Chalkboard table.

9. Set it up to host a tea party ... and more
Somewhere along the way, my daughter Tessa shifted from holding tea parties (the most memorable was tea for 12 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee two summers ago) to playing restaurant. Either way, a play table is indispensable — as it is in a play kitchen, where it can be pressed into use as counterspace when it's not set up for dining

10. Top it with a dollhouse
Every time the early-childhood educators set up one of the four tables in my 3-year-old daughter's daycare room with dolls, a dollhouse and tiny furniture, the table is swarmed. Why not steal a page from the experts! (The mod A-frame here reminds me of the dollhouse I had as a child in the '70s; it's available through All Modern.

11. Turn it into a Lego table
Transforming a surface into a mecca for Lego is as easy as adding a couple Lego baseplates ; a 25 cm x 25 cm sheet is $8.

12. Supersize it
When blogger Trina McNeilly of La La Lovely Things turned her dining room into a playroom for her four young kids, she plunked a big play table in the middle of it. I can't think of a more inviting centrepiece! While her space (which was photographed, above, for the Land of Nod catalog) has residual elegance from its time as a dining room, the other room here feels more utilitarian: ready to house a crowd for puzzles or painting without decorative flourishes to distract from the task at hand.

13. Get serious about arts and crafts
My kids would go nuts for this craft table, which puts all supplies right at their fingertips. If only our small house had an inch of extra space! (It's by Guidecraft, and I've also seen it available through DwellStudio and Sunny Street Toys.)


14. Let it inspire you to reuse or recycle other pieces
Flip sweet little garbage cans and add seat cushions and cut down old worktables (watch for them at flea markets and garage sales).


15. Make use of an empty corner
This little play table — chairs included — takes up perhaps eight square feet in the corner of a Malmö, Sweden, apartment, but offers space for two to colour, read or play with tabletop toys. Layers of lighting makes it inviting and usable.

Photo sources:
1.(Left) The Haystack Needle. Photography by John Granen; (right) Oilcloth Addict
2. Revel! blog
3. La Petite Magazine blog 
4. (Left) via Ideiacor blog; (right) Kidsmopolitan blog
5. Photograph by Julia Lynn via Lonny
6. (Left) via Mommo Design blog; (right) Tyler Dawson Design
7. (Left): via Anne Sage blog; (right) via Nietylkodzieciaki blog 
8. (Left) Photograph by Petra Bindel, Elle Decor. Photograph by Mikkel Vang. (Right) via Pure Green Design 
9. (Left) via Kotivinkki blog; (right) Kidsomania blog
10. (Left) via Sofiajon Tumblr blog; (right) Apartment Therapy
11. Photograph by Asia Citro via Fun At Home With Kids; (right) via My Ideal Home blog
12. (Left) Images courtesy of Land of Nod, via La La Lovely Things ; (right) Kidsomania blog  
13. DwellStudio
14. via Pastelowo blog 
15. via Revedecor blog. Photograph by Bolaget

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Condo Kitchen Makeover: Part 1

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/author/10405876">Margot Austin</a></p>
Condo Kitchen Makeover: Part 1
Learn Margot Austin's tips for galley kitchens.

 

These are the befores of the kitchen in our new condominium suite in Toronto. At first glance it's not too offensive: white cabinets, tile floors, gleaming stainless steel appliances and in-suite laundry right there too. And yet I found offense. In fact, I liked exactly two things about this space: the fact that it is a galley (the most efficient kitchen layout) and the existing Bosch laundry machines. Everything else had to go.

This is what the space looks like today. A blank (but not so clean) slate. My vision is a sleek white-on-white high-efficiency space. I actually designed and priced out the whole thing before we even submitted our offer so that we had a ballpark idea of how much we'd need to mentally add to the offer price to get it to what we wanted (er, what I wanted). Here's the scoop on some of my plans.

Inspiration

 

My first source of inspiration for the new design was my own current kitchen in our mid-century bungalow. I love the Ikea Applåd cabinets and knew immediately I would choose the same style again. The flat panel door style is modern and easy to keep clean. I have found in the past that grease and nastiness can gather on raised panel doors so I've sworn off them. I also love the low-sheen finish of the Applåd as opposed to the high-gloss surfaces of many flat-panel doors. I'm so much more a matte girl than a high-gloss girl.

Because our new space has bulkheads, I'm taking inspiration from the kitchen in Suzanne Dimma's basement and opting for horizontal uppers in a neat row. I seriously toyed with the idea of not having uppers at all, but then decided that was pure madness in a kitchen this tiny. It really only works when there's room for a tall pantry cupboard. Suzanne's kitchen also happens to be IKEA Applåd, which she chose after asking me about my kitchen and then the two of us waxing on together about gloss vs matte. Just another day at the H&H office!

When I was researching tiny white kitchens I also fell for this one in Spain. So simple, so sleek and with a dishwasher (left of sink) and fridge (foreground) that disappear behind custom panels. These became musts for me.

And here's my design. This is the umpteenth kitchen I have designed and every time I do it the same old-school way — graph paper and pencil. I do use the Ikea kitchen planning tool on the website — but mostly because I love that it automatically generates a shopping list I can take into the store. Total time-saver! Someday I vow to learn how to do perspective renderings, but for now these flat elevations work just fine.

And here it is, my kitchen (and the dishwasher is in there too) ready to be assembled and installed tomorrow and Friday. My excitement level is off the charts. Partly, of course, because I'm entrusting the job to Ikea installation services. Now, don't get me wrong, you know I love some DIY and I know how to work an Allen key, but the guys who do this stuff everyday — man, they are good! So fast and so good with the finessing of the details. I say this as someone who has actually done kitchen install the DIY way (our first kitchen) and who has entrusted the job to a contractor who was not an Ikea specialist. I've lived, I've learned and I'm not doing either of those things again.

Crowd-Sourced Countertop

A little while back I crowd-sourced my countertop choice on Instagram. I have HanStone quartz now and love it, so I thought I'd get that same colour, which is called Aurora Snow (seen at bottom left in this photo). But then I grabbed a few more samples and got thinking the choice wasn't quite so easy. I posted this pic knowing the top one was my fave and my husband's fave. It was the winner of the social media survey and even earned a vote from Sarah Richardson. It's not everyday you get free design advice from a world-famous designer, but when you get it, take it!

Backsplash Shortlist
The other day I also posted the three tiles that made the short list for our backsplash. On the left is an Applåd drawer front, and the small square is the winning counter sample, HanStone in Royale Blanc. On the right from top:
3" ceramic hex tiles in a random mix of matte and glossy finishes from CeraGres; 3" Calacatta marble hex in polished finish from Saltillo; 2" x 4" Calacatta marble brick tile in honed finish from Saltillo.

We're going with the Calacatta hex to add a fun, slightly retro shape to the space. Also, the bathroom shower has hex tile so now the two rooms will relate.

I hope you come back to the blog and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see more progress on the project. I have so much more to tell you about.

Photo sources:
1-4, 8-12: Margot Austin
5. Virginia Macdonald
6. Angus Fergusson
7. Francisco Berreteaga via Fresh Home

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Outdoor Pots, Pizza Making & The New Les Indiennes Outlet

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/lynda-reeves">Lynda Reeves</a></p>
Outdoor Pots, Pizza Making & The New Les Indiennes Outlet
Lynda's latest post.

Outdoor Pots

This month I'm on the hunt for great outdoor pots. Walking by the Club Monaco store on Bloor Street in Toronto, I was inspired by the huge assortment of pots they had assembled all planted with green and white, exactly as I hope to do in the country.

All the pots were some shade of grey or black with a few terracotta ones tucked into the mix. So now I'm on the hunt for great pots. After years of trying to lug heavy stone pots even just a few feet I've given up on anything that I can't easily move — at least when they're empty.

The new man-made faux stone pots are great looking, real terracotta is always a classic choice, and real or faux zinc and tin are a good addition to the mix.

I checked out these pots carefully. The jet black pots are painted terracotta. It was a reminder that I have a collection of painted pots in my courtyard that are in need of help. They suffered over the winter, plus it's time to add some new, freshly painted ones before I plant them with herbs.

The trick to painting your terracotta pots in matte black is to seal them first with a silicon sealer so the moisture doesn't cause the paint to peel. Then finish by painting them with enamel paint.

Here are a few pot options with a similar look. 

1) The lightweight galvanized Ikea Husön planter, (13" h. x 15", $25), won’t rust.

2) The Home Depot’s classic New England terracotta pot, (20" h. x 20" w., $50), can be left au naturel to develop a patina over time, or painted matte black.

3) The environmentally friendly Kobo planter by Hauser, (22" h. x 19.5" d., $98), won’t fade. 

4)The square Harmony planter (24" h.) in black resin from Canadian Tire is a bargain at $30.

Here is Renée Mitchell of Reneevations who started assembling the pots — a mix of vintage and new — in our country home in the Hudson Valley. It's a beginning!

Pizza Making

Over Easter at our country place we tried out the new Crate & Barrel Pronto pizza oven. It's amazing! It works off a propane tank, and it heats up quickly to over 800°F!

It comes with its own pizza stone, all you need to buy is a wooden pizza paddle, corn meal, and the ingredients to make your own dough and toppings.

You'll find the recipe for GREAT pizza dough here on our website. You'll see it calls for 00 flour. I've had quite a few people ask where to buy it and what it looks like.

 

Here are three brands carried by Fiesta Farms in Toronto: Caputo, Riscossa and Molisana. Look for them wherever Italian imported foods are sold. It really makes all the difference — you can produce thin, crispy, pizza if you use this flour.

New Les Indiennes Outlet 

Now for a really great new shopping source!! The first and only Les Indiennes outlet store has opened in Hudson, New York. It's amazing: it's big and full of their best selling linens, fabrics and accessories. You'll recognize many classic patterns. The prices are so good, you'll be thrilled. Worth the visit!!

Browse a gallery of more pots, urns, boxes and planters for spring here

Photo sources:
1-2, 7-11. Lynda Reeves
3. Ikea
4. Home Depot
5. Hauser
6. Canadian Tire
12. Les Indiennes

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Belgian-Inspired Budget Basement: The Reveal

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/author/10462376">Wendy Jacob</a></p>
Belgian-Inspired Budget Basement: The Reveal
Wendy Jacob's basement gets a Euro makeover.

Our basement makeover is finally complete and has resulted in a home office/den that is neat, clean (somewhat), water resilient, all for under $4,000. Here are some things I learned after my husband and I revamped our basement.

Lesson 1: A basement is a great place to experiment with a new look.

Suzanne Dimma pointed out in a recent blog that it's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality: not every room requires the exact same materials and palette. This Belgian-farmhouse look is a bit austere for a heavily used room, but it's practical in a basement. I took a chance with the floor and it's turned out to be my favourite thing. I was worried about the frank fakeness — it's vinyl — but this can stand up to future flooding and looks real (it is cold though, so a rug was a necessity.) 

A giant bookcase lines one side of the room (not surprising for two journalism grads). I loved Morgan Michener's April 2014 DIY which involved backing bookshelves in fabric. So I combined that with something I had seen in an earlier version of House & Home: Colette van den Thillart's dining room from the December 2012 issue.

Colette's laser-printed, photo-realism quartz wallpaper on velvet turned her Toronto dining room into an exotic grotto, and I was completely slayed. I thought why not use a combo of Morgan and Colette's ideas for the back of bookshelf?

I found this geo-stone look wallpaper that was in a neutral colourway and pasted it to a sample board. The results? It makes everything in front of it look epic. Too bad it made the maple bookcases look anemic.

Trying to decided between two paints for the shelves, I posted an impromptu poll on a blog and the winning choice was Farrow & Ball's Mole's Breath, a warm, smoky grey with plenty of drama. 

Lesson 2: Test a trend. 

I am not a grey person. I wasn't sure whether I loved the grey paint I chose for the bookshelves, or just the fact that it's a big trend colour and I had been seeing it in the magazine (Rona Collection's Taupe, an almost exact match, was called out as one of our trend colours in the January 2014 issue). To find out whether I could live with it, a sample board was crucial so I could see the shade against the floors, wainscotting and stone of the fireplace. The warm neutral added the right amount of richness, and the glossy finish looks freshly painted, I love that.

Of course I keep an exhaustive library of back issues of House & Home (doesn't everybody?). It's the original source of inspiration, long before Pinterest popped up.

Lesson 3: Don't let a room become a dumping ground for memorabilia.

Take the time to reevaluate what's on your bookshelves — not everything stands the test of time, while some items are still a joy to behold (I didn't even know we owned a rare 1936 issue of Alice in Wonderland, look how pretty it is).

Lesson 4: No one wants to spend time in a neglected room.

In addition to my home office, there was an antique desk that could be used for some (bad) sewing projects, and even a spot to do yoga, but I didn't want to spend time in an outdated space filled with odds and ends doing those activities. The busy woodwork and clutter just wasn't conducive to concentrating, but here's how the honey-pine corner of my office was transformed with paint.

The linen sheep-print fabric adds some life to the neutral scheme and makes a home office a bit fun, while concealing glass doors to a workshop behind. I just wish my desk always looked like this...

A textured basket for, ahem, fitness equipment that doesn't see the light of day, and an earthy pouf add a warm, handmade touch that's inviting.

 

I've decided that flood was the best thing that could have happened to this room. It made me take a hard look at the things I was saving, and created a soothing space to unwind... or work, or maybe even, work out.

See a gallery of editors' basement renos here.

Photo sources:
All photos (except #3) Wendy Jacob
3. House & Home December 2013, photography by Virginia MacDonald

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How To Travel Like A Designer: Amsterdam

author: 
<p>Corinne Cécilia</p>
How To Travel Like A Designer: Amsterdam
Anne Cahsens's guide to the Netherlands' capital.

From seafaring people to a naval power, from the golden age of Dutch masters to the modern era of design, from world trade leader to global financial hub — the Netherlands has never stopped exploring, innovating and reinventing themselves.

This outward-bound energy, along with a near Calvinist work ethics — tempered with a great sense of humour, mind you — fascinated me when I lived there. For despite a limited territory made of mainly coastal lowland and reclaimed land, this little kingdom withstood the turmoil of history to become one of the most prosperous nations on earth.

Amsterdam was always at the heart of this expansion drive, reaching a peak in the 17th century as the world's wealthiest city, and Europe's nerve centre for science and the arts. Fuelled by a context of freedom and riches, culture flourished in the self-proclaimed "valiant, steadfast, compassionate" port city.

The Venice of the North has also been the home of many famous Dutch artists and, naturally, has inspired designers for centuries. In fact, it's one of Quebec designer Anne Cahsens's favourite destinations in Europe. Her brand of home accessories, Anita, reminds me of Dutch design: inventive, minimalist, witty and cheery.

Come along as Anne takes us on a guided tour of Amsterdam!

Corinne Cécilia: Where do you like to stay?
Anne Cahsens: I like to stay in a local apartment. It really makes you feel like you're living like an Amsterdammer. This gave me a reason to go to the farmers' market on Saturday and buy local Edam and Gouda cheese and flowers. I used the services of the Short Stay Apartment. Next time I would like to try living on a houseboat. This is an experience that is unique to the area. But you need to plan that ahead of time, they book up quickly.

CC: What's your favourite restaurant?
AC: I ate really well in Amsterdam. The Kinnaree Thai restaurant served amazing Thai food. It's a discreet place but it was filled with locals and the price is so reasonable. For a special night out, I chose the Buffet von Odette on the Prisengracht. This is not at all a "buffet" as we know it; it's a French style bistro with great wine and great food. The ambience is a perfect mix of warm and cosy with airy and spacious.

CC: Where do you go out for a drink?
AC: I like hanging out upstairs at the Droog Gallery/Hotel. I could hang around upstairs all afternoon. On the main floor is a gallery boutique and the upper level is a casual restaurant/bar. The food was a modern version of typical Dutch food and they had the most delicious beer there. It's a different ambience to be upstairs in this kind of loft space. The interior is a really interesting open concept with a mix of white furniture and great artwork. It's mysterious how this place feels so warm and cosy but the ceiling is high and most of the furniture is white.

CC: Where do you love to shop?
AC: You can walk the entire afternoon on the Nieuwendijk, which is a pedestrian and tram street. This is a shopping area mostly for clothes and shoes. For more local boutiques, I found many interesting shops in the Jordaan neighbourhood. You can find original places like Shirdak, which sells beautiful textiles from Central Asia.

CC: Where do you like to go when you want to relax?
AC: It's romantic and so picturesque to roam around the canal streets of Amsterdam but it's wonderful to stroll or even better, bike, through the grand Vondelpark. There is a huge maze of paths with hidden duck ponds here and there. It's the perfect place for a picnic.

CC: Do you have a favourite hang out?
AC: One of my favourite galleries in Amsterdam is the Smelik & Stokking. I fell in love with the work of so many local artists in this gallery. They carry a mix of work from sculpture to originals and prints that seems to reflect the feeling and style of the Netherlands.

CC: Your favourite airline?
AC: No real preference.

Anne Cahsens's best address for interior design in Amsterdam: In Amsterdam a good start is the gallery of the Hotel Droog. They carry works from local, industrial and furniture designers. It's quite a large lofty kind of space with an interesting gallery-style way of presenting objects. If you're interested in design, check out dates for design events in the fall.

Corinne's travel tip: Like to mix business & pleasure? Visit the Netherlands when professionals met up to discover tomorrow's design: the 13th annual Dutch Design Week will take place from October 18 to the 16, 2014 in Eindhoven.

Corinne's reading pick: Vincent's Trees: Paintings and Drawings by Van Gogh by Ralph Skea. (2013, Thames & Hudson).

See a gallery of prominent Dutch designer Marcel Wanders' work.

Read more travel blog posts here.

Photo credits:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7,12. NBTC Holland Marketing
6. Amsterdam Marketing
8. S.M. Tunli via tunliweb.no
9. Moon Jansen via Buffet van Odette
10, 13, 14. Thijs Wolzak via Ho?tel Droog
11. Marianne Tuerlings via Shirdak
15. Chloe? van Diepen via Dutch Design Week

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East Coast Wine & Cheese

author: 
<p><a href="http://houseandhome.com/blogs/author/10433921">Eric Vellend</a></p>
East Coast Wine & Cheese
Eric Vellend's delicious Maritime discoveries.

To complement "Catch of the Day", our East Coast food feature in the July 2014 issue (available on Eastern newsstands June 2nd and Western June 9th), I want to delve more into the wine and cheese being produced by the Atlantic provinces. This, by no means, is a definitive round up. For the sake of brevity and user friendliness, I'm sticking with the stuff that has some national availability. For more info on East Coast wines, visit Wines of Canada, and for cheeses, check out the Canadian Cheese Directory.

The inclement weather and short growing seasoning make farming grapes a real challenge in Atlantic Canada. There are, however, a few terrific wineries along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Benjamin Bridge in the Gaspereau Valley (see photo above) is one of them, a sparkling specialist with a devout following. Their entry-level Nova 7, a fizzy, pink Moscato-style wine, has brilliant sweet-sour tension that is terrific with piquant cheeses or with spicy food. Their new 2009 Brut, which was aged three years on the lees, is a tight, tangy sparkler that would go well with oysters or gooey, washed-rind cheeses like brie. Finally, their Brut Reserve — I have tasted both the 2005 and 2007 — is aged for five years on the lees, and is a magnificent bottle of bub that can go toe-to-toe with French champagne in the same price range. It should be cellared and saved for an august occasion.

I've also had the pleasure of trying a few wines from Gaspereau Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley. Their L'Acadie Blanc, made from an all-Canadian grape of the same name, is a crispy, dry, citrusy white that has the lean charm of Petit Chablis. It's a knockout with shellfish.

Now you may be surprised to learn that Newfoundland produces wine, as the Rock is not exactly known for sunshine. While the province does not grow grapes for vinification, there is a bounty of wild fruit on the island, and Rodrigues Winery transforms it into award-winning elixirs. Their blueberry wine is more off dry than sweet with a good zing of acidity. Served well chilled, it would be terrific as an aperitif with goat cheese, or for dessert with any of Atlantic Canada's myriad of berry desserts. It also happens to be kosher.

Atlantic Canada is definitely more suited to cheese making than vinous agriculture, and a rapidly grown range of artisan wheels and wedges are making headway in market dominated by Ontario and Quebec.

P.E.I.'s Cow's Creamery may be more known for its chain of ice cream parlours, but among turophiles, it is the maestro of cheddar. Their Scottish-style Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar won a first prize at the 2013 Canadian Cheese Gran Prix, the Oscars of the dairy world.

From New Brunswick, look out for La Bergerie aux 4 Vents at your local cheesemonger. Their Gaie Bleu is a buttery raw cow's milk blue, and Le Sieur de Deplessis is an earthy, nutty tomme-style wheel made from raw sheep's milk.

Finally, from Nova Scotia, I am quite enamoured with the cheeses from That Dutchman's Farm. Their goudas are excellent (see photo above), and their unique Dragon's Breath Blue lives up to its name.

The next time you're putting together a wine and cheese party, don't forget about Canada's East Coast.

(For more East Coast inspiration, tour a pretty P.E.I. waterfront cottage.)

Photo sources:
1. Applehead Studio
2. Gaspereau Vineyards
3. Rodrigues Winery
4. Nova Scotia Tourism Agency

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