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Interior Design Blog

Feathers and Linen

July 6, 2017

feather accent on roman

Feathers tickle my fancy!  Here are a few reasons that I love feathers, and enjoy using them in my decorating.

  1.  I love using accessories from nature.
  2.  Sometimes they are free!  The ones in the photo above were a little gift from my emu farm friends at Fenwood Farms.
  3.  They are unexpected in decor.
  4.  I love the natural colour palettes, especially black/brown/grey/white
  5.  They have a graceful drape.
  6.  They are a good alternative to costly manufactured trims on drapery, again, see above.
  7.  They look a bit exotic.
  8.  I don’t like peacock feathers, the colours are too harsh for me, but there are many alternatives, for example, chicken feathers, which are the smaller brown feathers on the roman shade above.
  9.  The larger ones are great grouped together in a vase.
  10.  Tied in a bunch, they can be tucked into a Christmas tree.
  11.  A large bunch makes a great Christmas tree topper.
  12.  They can be tucked into floral arrangements and greenery at any time of the year, but are especially nice for Christmas feather Christmas arrangement


Natural fabrics are my favourite for drapery, bedding and upholstery:  linen, cotton, wool and leather.  Feathers are a natural compliment to these materials.

I think birds are beautiful too. 

That’s another article waiting to be written.

powder room

Do you feel that your home needs a little zhushing, but aren’t sure how to do it?  Maybe you think that you should be adding a little something every time the season changes?  Switching out your decorative pillows every season just not doing it for you?  Looking for inexpensive accessories that don’t look inexpensive?

We are surrounded by unmatched beauty that is free, and we don’t always notice! 

Flowers, feathers and branches can transform a room, and often they are right in your own back yard.  Even if you don’t have a  beautiful cutting garden, a single flower or interesting branch looks fabulous in a vase, or under a cloche.  I often pick up wonderful gnarled and lichen covered branches on the street during my daily walks. 

summer cloche

Failing that, you can purchase a bunch of flowers from your grocery store for under 10 dollars.  The branch of tiny flowers above was only a third of the bunch, and it cost a whopping 4 dollars.  I split it into 3 small vases, which can be grouped together or scattered throughout the house.  My tip is to purchase a single type of branchy flower, alone, or in a bunch for greater impact.  And always look in the walk-in cooler first, where some of the most unusual specimens are sold by the stem.

Likewise, a few apples or pears on a long narrow plate looks fantastic.

Forage for natural accessories, either outside or in the grocery store, and you can keep up your seasonal decorating for almost nothing.

You can always call on Elisa and me to come and do the zhushing for you!


Black Kitchen

March 3, 2017


I have always wanted black kitchen cabinets, and when I downsized into a dark townhouse, with very tall ceilings, I decided this was the time. It might sound counter intuitive to paint a dark space black, but here are the reasons I did it, how I did it and what went wrong doing it!


This was a 5 year old townhouse and it looked tired. The materials were mostly inexpensive, bland and out-of-date. The look was dark and uninspired. My budget was small, and I needed to make decisions that would give me the most bang for my buck. Black looks luxurious and expensive, especially when mixed with natural wood, creme, brushed brass and gold accents.  The existing cabinets were plentiful and in great shape.  BUT, they were golden oak.  With arched mouldings.  Yuckk!



Drama, contrast, texture and interest.  I used these four concepts to bring life to a boring space.

Drama came from the black painted cabinets.  Contrast was created between the light walls and black cabinets.  Texture arrived with the distressed hickory hardwood floors, marble island counter, marble tile backsplash and antique furniture.  Interest was added with modern light fixtures, hand-finished cabinet pulls, wood flooring, art and accessories.

I also used another winning formula to cure the blahs: using light, mid-tone and dark shades in the space.    The new wood floor was mid-tone, the walls and trim were painted light and the black cabinets were, of course, dark. 

What Went Wrong

When I find a new contractor I like to have them do something for me, before I recommend them to a client.  Sometimes, I learn that they do not live up to their promises, like the contractors I hired for the spraying later on.  Sometimes, in the case of the painter, a mistake is made that can be forgiven, especially when they attempt to correct it.

Initially, the painter used a semi gloss black latex industrial paint on the kitchen cabinets.  It did not cure properly and the finish was soft for weeks.  Next she used a semi gloss interior house paint.  Unfortunately, she didn’t sand off the first coats completely, and the new finish was never pristine.  I accepted it because she had worked so hard, and it looked miles better than the original oak finish.  I also knew that I would not be content to live with the arched doors for long.

After a few years, I decided to replace all of the arched, hollow entry doors to good quality, solid wood.  Now I would have beautiful three panel, shaker doors painted Cloud White with black handles.  It was time to replace my arched kitchen cabinet doors as well.

I found large, handsome, hand-finished handles that I just had to have.  They were expensive, but worth it.  And they looked fantastic on plain flat modern black doors.  I hired a new company to  spray finish and install the new doors.  They had never worked with black before, and despite their enthusiasm, they just couldn’t get the finish right.  They delivered and installed some of the doors many times, until finally my patience ran out and told them to get it right or go away!  Eventually, after at least 4 attempts at respraying, and one door needing to be replaced, I have a beautiful finished product.

I suffer, so my clients won’t!


Elisa 1

Living large in a small house?  Written by Elisa Bondy, Adele Barrett Interiors

Like many people my age, I’ve found myself getting wrapped up in the need to “have” certain things in life, that I should own a beautiful, large home that was perfectly appointed. As an Interior Decorator this desire seemed perfectly reasonable. I justified and gave credence to the idea by telling myself that my home would show clients what I was capable of creating and what was possible in the areas of design. I thought my children should grow up with space and have a place they were excited to bring their friends, and that the more I could provide in a house, the more successful I would be. So when it came time for Jay and I to move our young family, it is fair to say my expectations were high. What I very quickly realized however, was that in today’s vastly competitive real estate climate, our money couldn’t buy the house of my dreams……at least I thought it couldn’t.

As a society I think we have the tendency to associate success and happiness with money, and what money can buy you. But, I have learned that success and happiness are relative terms. There was no question we couldn’t afford a larger house in our preferred neighbourhood, so our options were to buy a smaller house, or move further away. We chose to do both, and something truly amazing happened!

We settled on a 60’s bungalow in the country, about 20 minutes away from our previous home. Everything was original, from the tired wood panelled walls to the orange kitchen counter top, but the house had modern appeal and was well within our budget. We immediately set to work renovating the interior, and as the old materials gave way to new ones, so too did my previously held ideals. Suddenly I was confronted by a profound understanding. We had purchased our dream house without even realizing it.

Elisa 2

The Things We Have Gained:

– What we lack in interior space we have made up for in exterior landscape, surrounded by trees, farmlands and hiking trails.

– My creativity and design experience have flourished, as I am challenged to make every room beautiful, as well as functional.

– My family spends more time together since there is less space to be apart, and my children spend less time with technology, because they are too busy discovering the outdoors.

– On top of all of that, we have more disposable income. This has allowed us to not only to furnish and finish the house exactly as we’d like, but also to travel and have other family experiences that we could not have accomplished otherwise.

– The renovations have increased the home’s value and so have improved our financial well being.

And so, if you asked me today if it is a good idea to downsize with a young family, I would say, most definitely YES.

Elisa Bondy, Interior Decorator and Certified Stager

Adele Barrett Interiors

Design Inspiration

February 17, 2016

Design Inspiration



Our clients’ carved birds, collected on a trip to Africa, inspired fabric and rug choices for their family room

Design Inspiration comes from many places, but there are far more sources today than there were 20 years ago.

Today we have Instagram, Pinterest, Houzz, Blogs, and on-line articles that we have had access to only in the past 10 years.  We used to rely on nature, fashion, travel, magazines, literature, art and movies.

Reflection, meditation and imagination always were, and will always, be the best way to channel design inspiration.  Perhaps dreams should be added to this list.

I used to have a recurring dream about a home accessory that I invented. I used a gnarly tree branch as a holder for an original painting, mounted on the wall.  This dream is perhaps 30 years old, much older than the reclaimed wood and branch trend that has been popular in the last five years.

I have designed incredibly colourful and intricate patterns for wallpaper in my dreams.  This was one of my most thrilling dreams; it is right up there with flying, which I used to do regularly, and now I lift off only about once a year.

I wish that I had documented the wallpaper design from my dream!  Better yet, if only someone would let me design wallpaper!

Here are two examples of new wallpaper designs that I love.  They are from Calico wallpaper:

I know, I know, I said that I would never design with wallpaper again, but these are so great!  Grasscloth and cork remain favourites, and there is a mural in a marble pattern that we sourced for a client recently. 

Nature remains a powerful inspiration for the design industry.  It informs some of the best wallpapers and fabrics and allows designers to have both glamour and earthiness in our designs.  This creates the perfect balance in an interior, no matter the budget or style.

So, design inspiration may come from many places, and every year there are more and more.  If you have the desire, as we do as design professionals, to be excited about what you do, you will look for inspiration everywhere.