Some spaces are just special, and I believe it is the energy of those who inhabit a house that give it a life and energy all it’s own – to everyone who came through these doors, this really was the ‘house of love’. This house has a long history within my family; it will truly always be home to me, even though I no Ionger live here. I had originally purchased this house with my (now ex-) husband when my daughter, Sienna, was just a baby; we had dreamed that this would be our family home, the place where Sienna would grow up, the yard she would play in and the place where she would create her childhood memories. As life happens, we didn’t end up staying married but had the incredible fortune to maintain a loving friendship and sense of family for Sienna – rather than sell the house we had decided to keep it and rent it out when we each moved on to our separate dwellings. Four years later, circumstances came up that brought a chance for Sienna and I to move back into the house, which we called home (again) for nearly two years.
Just recently we decided to sell the house and give a fresh opportunity for it to become home to a new family and have it’s own set of fresh beginnings, but it was during the time that Sienna and I came back to living here that we had the chance to be featured in House & Home Magazine. For the full story and what H&H editors loved about my “saves vs splurges” for the Money Issue, grab the June edition on stands now.
When my daughter and I returned to living here, I wanted to create a space for us that would be truly special just for her and I. I felt it was important to change the look and feel of the space from when we lived here previously with Sienna’s dad, so that she could relate to it as a home for her future, not just a place for memories of the past. I approached moving back to this house as an opportunity to take Sienna’s interests and inspirations, along with my own creative vision, to design a ‘girls pad’ of sorts, and definitely an inviting home built on love.
When I considered the decor moving back into the home, I knew I had a new sense of freedom within the design; with just Sienna and I living here now, we had the ability to create a space with a strong feminine energy. I firmly believe in fresh white walls, so the first thing I did was whitewash the entire space; by eliminating the darker charcoal walls we previously had, it immediately brightened the house and created a more spacious feeling backdrop for our decor. It also muted some of the stronger traditional elements to the space, like the heavy mouldings and trims, creating a more modern twist to the character of the 1905 era house. My personal taste is a mix of global-bohemian and a little bit of rock ’n roll, and the gallery-white walls allowed the boho accents and eclectic mix of art to pop without needing too much colour to do so; the overall palette is actually quite neutral, yet the hits of colour in the smaller details create a sense of brights and playfulness.
Shortly after we moved in I had the opportunity to take a solo trip travelling Morocco for six weeks (keep your eyes out next week for the full blog post on my incredible Moroccan journey). I found much of my design inspiration in the medinas, street life and architecture of many of the cities; most predominantly I was influenced by the heavily layered textiles and accents of Marrakech, combined with elements of striking colours from a small town just outside of Tangier, called Chefchouen. I came home from my travels with many elements that have now set the tone of our home – the area rugs, collection of vintage handiras (Moroccan wedding blankets) and layered accent textiles have really created a unique foundation for our decor.
I absolutely love working with vintage treasures, which is obvious within my decor. I have built the design philosophy of my interior design business around the juxtaposition of mixing old with new, high and low price points, and finding unique pieces that have a history. I believe that the decor of a house should tell the story of those that call it home – it should create a dialogue of what their interests and passions are, and what they treasure the most. The ‘perfect’ houses are nice to look at, but are ultimately what I considerer to be beautifully stale… I would way rather spend time in a space that embraces it’s imperfections and allows fun one-off decor pieces to ignite a little imagination. I definitely wanted this house to tell the story of Sienna and I – she has spent countless hours coming to work with me since infancy, helping me with sourcing cool finds for clients and ultimately has developed her own love for hunting down vintage treasures that have a history and story to tell us. It’s been a really beautiful experience to watch her discover her own finds and inspirations to incorporate into our house.
After seeing my space, people often as me what my go-to spots for decor are; I definitely have a few favourites. A fundamental part of design for me is shopping local, so whenever possible I source from locally owned businesses and from the amazing roster of local artists and artisans Vancouver has to offer. For new finds I love to hit up The Cross Decor & Design in Yaletown and Vancouver Special on Main Street – they always have a beautiful mix of local items and international pieces that really become statement elements within any room.
For vintage shopping, however, my first (and often only) stop is a place in Chinatown called The Longwalk Lodge. The Lodge is home to three stellar local businesses: hands down the best vintage/ salvage/ custom furnishings and decor shop in the city, Space Lab; a great little independent coffee shop, Aubade Coffee, a must-stop for carefully cup-by-cup curated java, and; the coolest barbershop in Vancouver, Bootleg Barbers, where you’ll always find the room filled with laughter, tall tales and maybe even a shot of whiskey or two while the charmed patrons wait to see arguably the top three barbers in the city. Space Lab is owned by one of my closest friends, Clint Moroz, whom I met when hunting down unique lighting for one of my very first clients; Clint not only offers the most diverse range of salvaged and vintage curios, but also is a skilled designer who can create stellar custom lighting and furnishings for big impact projects. I’d say that I’ve sourced my favourite finds for almost every project from Space Lab, and definitely many of the cool random elements that I treasure most in my own home.
Whether for myself or for clients, I firmly believe that great style doesn’t have to cost a lot. I love to find affordable options and give them a little facelift to allow them a new home within mine. Pulling a room together is all about mixing higher end investment pieces with unexpected items that tell a story so that it becomes all about the personality and energy of the people who spend time there. What I value the most within my home is not the bigger ticket items, but the pieces I have collected over my lifetime. When I was young my mom would always joke that I was a little hoarder because I would find random treasures at garage sales or markets that I would become attached to and keep; I suppose my love for vintage and found items has always been a part of me, and I actually still have many of the finds I made as a girl in my home today. I truly have a home filled with pieces I have spent a lifetime collecting that represent a world of memories for me, from childhood to motherhood and everything in between.
Some of my favourite pieces that I have collected are actually family heirlooms, which I feel very fortunate to be able to give new life to. My coffee table and sofa are both from my grandparent’s home, as well as my dining table (which I opted to pair with mismatched chairs and stools rather than the formal coordinating chairs my grandmother preferred); it’s really fun that now all of my family dinners and parties are gathered around the same tables that I grew up sitting at during Holiday occasions or when I visited my grandparents as a child. A number of my art and sculptural pieces were from my grandmothers collection as well. Not only do the pieces offer us beautiful memories of our family, but also they were upscale purchases when my grandmother chose them so many decades ago. I love that while some current trends are reflective of these original pieces, they are ultimately unique and don’t look like a lot of mainstream furniture options. Style and quality truly do stand the test of time!
If I had to call out the most notable decor elements that we added to this house, there’s a few pieces that literally almost everyone comments on. I didn’t think they were so distinct when I introduced them to the space – the choices all felt very natural – but guests almost always comment on the safe few things:
1. OVERSIZED LIVING ROOM LAMP: This super large lamp is one of the big statement pieces that people always comment on; I found it at Refind Home Furnishings when it was in it’s original condition: classic 1960’s orange and brown with a gold shade. A few cans of high gloss white spray paint and a new white shade later, the lamp transformed into a chic statement piece and has become one of the focal points of my space.
2. MOROCCAN WEDDING BLANKETS: While travelling Morocco I fell in love with the story of decorating with vintage Handiras; Traditionally, each metal paillette would have been sewn on by hand by a Berber bride’s family in preparation for her wedding day – I cherish the meaning, story and love behind each piece. I have used them as wall coverings, bedspreads and throw blankets throughout my home to bring the sparkly texture to the space.
3. ARTWORK: My art collection is an eclectic mix of thrift store finds, original work by some of my favourite local artists like Zoe Pawlak and Jamie Bizness, and a few pieces from my late grandmother’s fine art collection. Combining all these styles with unifying white frames allow them to work seamlessly together while each making their own statement.
4. INDOOR HAMMOCK: The fringed, natural cotton hammock that hung between our living and dining rooms brings a heavy hit of bohemian style to the space. I love that it acted as extra seating for us, and was a favourite spot for my daughter and I to snuggle up for bedtime stories.
5. CORK-TOPPED DINING STOOLS: These versatile metal stools are a score from Space Lab and were originally the warehouse utility stools at the main Canada Post facility in Vancouver; these were another spray-paint DIY update and are used as extra seating not only at the dining table, but wherever we need in the house.
One of the great elements of living in a house vs condo (besides having a beautiful backyard) was having a killer little garage. When we lived there previously it had definitely been more of a masculine space used primarily for tools and storage, but I wanted to utilize the outbuilding and therefore it required a little love. I completely whitewashed the garage when I wanted to convert it from a dark, spider-filled storage space into a girl-friendly workspace and cool spot for my motorcycle. It really brightened up the space and also rid it of the bugs and all those crawly creatures I’m afraid of! I added some of my favourite art pieces that didn’t fit in the main house, my vintage Wassily chair and a stereo to create the studio vibe – the only thing missing was a bar fridge for champagne 😉 My bike is definitely (still) a work in progress, but on it’s way to becoming a stellar bad-ass little ride! While I like my decor to be pretty, I like my motorcycles to look a bit tough.
Whether it was the garage, the outdoor entertaining areas or the main house, creating the inviting, feminine and loving feel of this home was truly a passion project… our hearts and energy naturally guided how we would recreate this space to become what it did. Now as we embark on our next housing adventure (a stellar little loft in Chinatown) we take the experiences, memories and love we built here with us and have had the opportunity to curate it all over again into our next place we call home. It’s true: with love, every ending really is a new beginning…
All photography courtesy of my dear friend, Tracey Ayton.