Friday, 28 October 2011

Moon Over Maui... One of My Favourite Places

I haven't had time for a big ol' post today, but since a recent Wall Street Journal article about my grandfather Tom Sewell was included in today's Globe and Mail,  I thought I'd share these links and a little bit about the home/art estate he shares with his lovely wife Michelle Sewell on Maui...

The article and Tom's website will reveal enough about this magical dwelling, so I won't get into details... but what I will say is that it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I've ever been. Every time I see photos I wish I was back on the island!

Below are a bunch of great shots from my most recent trip there, when Marc and I visited in February... too many to choose from!

Have a great weekend everyone :)


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Kitchen Inspiration

Believe it or not, but moving to this place was a step up for me in the kitchen department... not in terms of the finishes (quite the opposite) but in terms of cupboard and counter space. 

Even having a full-size fridge and oven seemed like a luxury after the compact everything in my last apartment!

Nonetheless, our small blah kitchen needs some serious sprucing up... almost as badly as our pre-makeover washroom did! 

We're not about to replace the cabinetry in a rental unit and, again, I can't do much about the fluorescent lighting, so we've got no choice but to get creative.

Since I've found that my taste and design sensibility these last few years is more mid-century modern than anything, I've been doing a lot of brainstorming with this in mind. 

Here are a few images that I've found particularly inspiring... 

[Anything Praiseworthy]

[HGTV Designers' Portfolio - Erinn Valencich]

[Midwestern Midcentury]

[HGTV Designers' Portfolio - Alicia Friedmann]

[Lurvely - Photo by Annie Werbler]

[Inspire Bohemia] 

[Crestview Doors]

How cute are these?! 

I realize this style isn't for everyone, but I love it and cannot wait to get going on our kitchen the way we do everything else... slowly but surely!  :)


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Favourite Things… Guest Post by my Dad, Fred Illies

"Three at Rest"
Kimberly Marten, 2002
Acrylic on Canvas

There's a bakery in Riverdale that I used to go to to get Indian food for lunch. As is common with many local restaurants, there were some paintings by a local artists hung on the wall behind the cash register as a makeshift gallery. The largest of these was called "Three at Rest" depicting a young mother, sleeping with her baby and the grandmother.

Every time I went into the bakery I was moved by the peace and love I saw in this beautiful painting. For me it became a symbol of the diversity and richness of the neighbourhood as it has blossomed over the years I've worked there. I eventually tried to buy it, but they said they couldn't get in touch with the artist. I was very disappointed, but no matter how many times I asked them, the reply was the same.

One Summer Saturday day when my wife Ali & I were in the neighbourhood, I took her to the bakery and said, "That is the painting I've been telling you about". She too fell in love with it.

A month or more later I stopped in at the bakery and was heartbroken to find the painting gone. I resigned myself to be grateful that I had experienced the painting and received so much joy & peace from having known it.

In September it was my birthday, and I was dumbfounded when I opened my present from Ali… it was the painting! "But how.." I asked. She then told me the story of how she went back to the bakery to buy the painting for my birthday. They told her the same thing: the artist was nowhere to be found so she couldn't buy it. Normally Ali would have said thank you and left, but not that day.

She told the young woman behind the counter that it didn't matter that they couldn't find the artist – Ali would pay the restaurant, take the painting, and when the artist finally DID get back in touch, they could give her the money. The young woman said she couldn't do that.

In an uncharacteristic move, Ali got the woman to call the owner right then, and Ali talked to him on the phone. She convinced him to accept her proposal, and thus the painting became my birthday present.

The painting sits on the fireplace mantle that I built, and it is the soul of our home. I took an apartment in Vancouver for work a few years later, and Ali stayed in our house in Toronto. I made a life-size reproduction of the painting and hung it in the loft in Vancouver… so I would feel the same peace and comfort. I'm back in Toronto now, and the painting continues to mean the world to me - it signifies Ali's deep and enduring love.

-fred illies

American Thanksgiving - 2007

Thanks for sharing this story, Dad! Xo

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Simple Pleasures - My Ikea Catalogue!

After a deliciously blustery and relaxing weekend up north with my girlfriends, my chaotic Monday just about did me in. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep my bad mood away. 

And then I spotted my Ikea Catalogue.

Even though I can go online literally any time I want, and see virtually every single item the moment it's available for sale, there is something particularly special about receiving my hardcopy in the mail.

It's not unlike the excitement my sisters and I experienced at the arrival of our beloved Sears Wishbook as kids. Only instead of sifting through page and after page, looking for toys and super hot leggings with stir-ups, I now lust after shelving, lamps and bedding with the exact same fervor!

I'm not sure I can pin point what I love most about Ikea... the simplistic Scandinavian designs and the reasonable prices? Or the fun of assembling everything myself? (I'm not kidding) Maybe it's their awesome Wacky Wednesday sales or the fact that I can get a plate of Swedish meatballs or a full breakfast and a beer for literally, like, $4...

Whatever it is, it's fantastic.

Now it's time to simultaneously doggie-ear my way through the catalogue and burn my way through what's left of my 100 pack of tealights... all for an excuse to head back to the happiest place on earth my local store! 


Friday, 14 October 2011

I Heart October!

Tonight I'll be heading north for my annual girls weekend and relaxing big time with good food, great company, probably too many bottles of wine and apparently a lot of rain. Can't wait!

Before I head out though, I thought I'd share a bit about last weekend, which was all about family thanks to our three Thanksgiving dinners!

Over the course of the weekend we got to see my Papa on his 74th Birthday, both our parents, three babies, three dogs and about forty other grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins... Exhausting, yes, but also lots of fun as usual.

Fortunately the only dish I had to prepare throughout this familial marathon (assuming wine and dinner rolls don't count) was a salad... and I don't mind tooting my own horn when I say that I definitely delivered!

I decided to try this fantastic recipe (found via Style at Home's Beautiful Bites email suggestions) that seemed like the perfect fall salad to add to a heavy turkey dinner...

I added some craisins for both flavour and colour, put a drop of honey dijon in my dressing and used a greater amount of spinach than quinoa... all in all great calls, because it was delicious and I'll absolutely make it again.

One of the highlights of the weekend festivities was a surprise pumpkin carving challenge put on by Marc's mother Bonnie. On a beautiful sunny weekend like that one, it was the perfect pre-dinner activity for the kids... and a few of us big kids, too!

Alright, now I've just got to get through the busy work day ahead and then I'm outta here...

Have a great weekend!

P.S. Since I'm vacating the city I'll be missing a good friend's wedding this evening... Congratulations Wendi & Kim! And best wishes for a very special wedding day!!! XOXO

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Battle of the Bathroom

Throwing a new coat of paint onto your walls is probably the easiest and most cost effective way to freshen up a space. For our ugly little bathroom this was the first "to do" on the list.

The only problem was that I greatly underestimated how much Marc would care about the paint colour and it took me a long, long time to wear him down... but wear him down I did! 

With relentless hinting, suggesting and prodding, I had secured free reign for myself and was given the green light from Marc (God love him) to pick whatever colour I wanted... little did he know, what I really wanted was a beautifully bright turquoise to liven up the joint!

After his prep and my two coats, the space already looked entirely different. I L-O-V-E-D it immediately but Marc was pretty much in shock, and it took these few further accessories and personal touches to help this new look slowly grow on him...



(It looks more blue in photos but really the colour matches the turquoise from the diagram up top!)

Approximate Cost Breakdown:

2 Cans of Spray Paint........$17.92
Ikea FR√ĄCK Mirror............$12.99
Ikea Shower Curtain.........$14.99
Paint & Supplies..............$50.00
3 Printed Photos..............$0.57 
West Elm Ceramic Owl.......$9.71

TOTAL: Just $106.18!!!

Unfortunately there's not much we can do about the terrible lighting here but I for one thought this was a great and fairly inexpensive transformation for the time being!

Plus with a few more tweaks (faux-frosted glass, for example) it'll only get better from here :)

Have you ever had to fight for your design ideas? Would you have chosen such a bold colour? Do tell!


Friday, 7 October 2011

My Ugly Bathroom

As I've mentioned before, when we first saw our apartment both Marc and I were able to look past lots of not so impressive features. The one thing that I could not get past however was the dingy, ugly bathroom, that was so awful both Marc and my sister, Jenna (below) thought I'd veto the place altogether!

As the only washroom in the unit, it's a decent size, but it sits right in the middle of the narrow townhouse layout and is therefore entirely without natural light.

Perhaps to overcompensate for this, the owners installed terrible fluorescent lighting, which only seemed to magnify the several imperfections of the crappy white paint job, the odd mismatched shelving, and general grossness of it all.

We decided we wanted the apartment, but I said right then and there, if I was to move in then something would have to be done to this sorry little space and fast!

That was the first time I really thought, as renters, most of the home improvements we make will be even more money right down the drain. Not owning the place means that when the time comes to vacate, someone else will benefit from all of the time, cash and elbow grease spent fixing it up... not us.

Having said all that, I seriously could not stand the room, I'd be embarrassed to have others use it, and I definitely couldn't picture myself having a relaxing bubble bath in it, which is unacceptable! So what could we do?

Stay tuned and soon enough I'll reveal how just a few small changes made a world of difference to this ugly duckling of a room!

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fall Festivities

I've busted out my scarves, finally shut the windows and we've now had our first fire of the season to warm the place up... October has arrived!

Next weekend we have three, count 'em, three Thanksgiving dinners to attend and in no time at all it'll be Halloween. I was reminded of this while poking around West Elm (one of my favourite Sunday activities) and saw some of their awesome seasonal decorations...

I'm not sure what I'm up to this Halloween or if I'll even be dressing up, but I can say for damned sure that I'll be carving another pumpkin or two! 

Carving pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns is one of those silly little activities that I seem to put a lot of time and energy into, for no reason at all aside from my own entertainment. 

But what's not to like? You can get creative, get your hands dirty, and if nothing else, get delicious toasted pumpkin seeds out of it!

Last year I was inspired an old Sam Roberts Band t-shirt of mine and came up with this night owl... three hours of sketching, gutting and carving later, I thought it turned out pretty well! 

But now it's back to the drawing board... any ideas for this year's design? Will you bother busting out fake spider webs, skulls and the like?