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Interior Design Blog

Window frame filled with a pretty patchwork of vibrant flowers and other natural materials.  Notice the combination of orange and pink, cooled off with bright lime green.  These colours are great for spring, including Pantone’s now famous Tangerine Tango, and would be wonderful in accessories, such as throw pillows and vases.

There were inspiring displays at both shows.  Here are some pictures and ideas that may move you to make some changes, which will be way more fun than spring cleaning!

Outdoor industrial garden chic lighting from Sweet Peas in Toronto.

A nicely weathered looking wall sconce from Sweet Peas,Toronto.


Yellow and Orange painted branches compliment yellow/orange plants.

Vintage light fixture in antique brass adds a modern touch to a traditional framed kitchen from Bloomsbury, Toronto.  Antique Nickel, stainless steel, and satin brass mix well when the correct amounts of each are used, as they are in this kitchen display.

Custom mirrored doors add light, elegance and space to the same display kitchen.

Decorative mosaic tiles are surprising affordable, from $1,500 to $2,500 for thirty-five square feet, from Orro Mosaic inVaughn,Ontario.  Wonderful for a powder room, as an accent over a bathtub, or in an entrance.  Would also make a unique headboard.


 Marble and inlaid hardwood floor.

 A leggy island– if you don’t need extra storage below, this looks refreshing.

There were many displays of doors and windows.  What’s new are fibreglass entry doors that have the texture of wood, so they can be stained to look just like the real thing.  There are many, many options for the glass inserts, and there seems to be more and more glass than ever.  A very good website, by Novatech, a Canadian manufacturer, helps you to design your own entry door. Click on their Design Centre for a excellent selection of door and glass styles, then you can print out the design, as well as get a quote for your creation.  You can even download a picture of your house, and insert a door in one of their factory colours, to see exactly how the door will look.

Finally, I will leave you with a beautiful picture of orange tulips–watch for them to be coming to a garden near you.  Who can resist!

Let’s leave the beautiful kitchen (if you can!), and travel down a long narrow hallway that leads to the biggest surprise of all.  It’s a long walk, about twenty feet; turn left into the great room or go straight out the back entry Marvin door with full glazing.  Another hanging lantern style fixture punctuates this back entrance that leads out to the spectacular garden, pool and dining cottage.

 After the long walk down the narrow hallway you don’t expect to see this vast soaring space–the new great room was once the 1960’s classroom addition.  It had a ten foot ceiling, which was higher than average, but the footprint of approximately thirty by thirty, although large, wasn’t big enough to accommodate the desired office, family room, gym and powder room.

Another thirteen feet was added to the height, making the top of the new cathedral ceiling an  impressive twenty-three feet tall at the peak.  What an inviting space, with its reclaimed wood beams and trusses, full-height stone fireplace with Rumford insert, antique wood floors, and Marvin windows, all custom designed by Adele Barrett Interiors.


Other custom designed and built features of the family room include:


  • The original slate chalkboards with blue and red horizontal lines have been installed into new millwork, with wide crown mouldings, book shelves, and cork board, and the wood was painted in a rich clay colour.
  • A twelve foot tall bookcase was made from recycled hemlock that houses the T.V.
  • An open staircase was hand-crafted using antique wood, topped by glass panels in the loft railing.
  • A craggy six-foot barn door made from salvaged wood slides open to reveal the home gym.

Warm and beautifully aged decorating details are everywhere.  There is a very old, ornately carved wing chair with vibrant upholstery in shades of lime and blue that resides beside the fireplace (see above and below).  The floral matelasse is original, and I carefully matched distressed velvet in lime green and blue to replace worn areas.

The area rug, from Elte,  is a patchwork of old orientals in every colour of the room, with a  warm red tone prevailing.  A pendulum floor lamp from Restoration Hardware  provides good light for reading, and a rich brick red and gold cut-velvet, damask fabric from Robert Allen makes the cosy sofa very inviting.

The powder room in this area is my favourite, from the black and white basket-weave ceramic tile floor, to the Restoration Hardware Library sconces, this is a little gem.  It is the closest bathroom to the in-ground pool and hot-tub, so I designed a bench, with cubbies to hold baskets and a shelf and hooks for pool towels, all painted in a beautiful antique teal.  A whimsical touch is evident in the tiny wood blocks of original art sprinkled across one wall, featuring a chandelier, a doll and a diamond ring, among other objects.

The loft office is washed by light from the two skylights and the large window with arched wood insert.  A bespoke cabinet lines the long wall, which allows for plenty of office storage and is topped with the same slate black board that was carefully removed from the old classroom walls.  There were originally two large walls of the old blackboards (you can just imagine row on row of cursive writing lessons) and only one was needed for the new chalk-board millwork in the family room below; we didn’t allow any of it to go to waste.


Jenn and Jim’s art collection is abundant in this large space, from the painting of colourful houses on the mantel, to the row of tiny portraits of earnest school children that look right at home on the blackboard, to the ice skating gentleman,  to name only a few.   The art adds to the charm and vibrancy of this fantastic home.

Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part I
Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part II

Principal Bedroom and Kitchen

The principal bedroom is one of four, three on the main floor and one in the loft.  The former is a retreat, with two sets of double, antique, carved wood doors from Egypt, a rustic crystal chandelier, and a dramatic headboard make from repurposed architectural panels.  Their Gothic arch shape suggest that they may have come from an old church.  The effect is almost ethereal.


The floor is carpeted with a custom bordered rug, and the walls are stencilled in an oversized damask design pulled from the carpet border, designed by Adele Barrett Interiors.  A floral crewel fabric in shades of cranberry, gold, green and blue is used for a roman shade and matching pillow.  The bed is covered in striped velvet and green paisley, all custom made.

The owners have hung their largest painting in this room, (and good for them!) It is a beautiful oil of an open door, painted blue, which leads you into a bright green room.  Sunlight spills into it, just as light streams into their bedroom from the adjacent tall mullioned window.

The ensuite bathroom has marble floor and shower tiles, accented with panels of river rock and a smaller version of the wall stencil.  In each corner two separate cabinets with sinks and mirrored medicine cabinets are lit with polished nickel sconces, and a built- in dressing table make this an ensuite to rival the best boutique hotel.

Down the hall from the principal suite, the main bathroom contains a claw-foot tub that looks at home among bead-board wainscoting painted navy blue, a pedestal sink with Venetian mirror, and a honey pine vanity desk that is new, but is so distressed that it looks like mice have nibbled on its legs for years.  A piece of slate blackboard from the school’s 1960’s addition was used for the vanity top, and visitors can leave a message with the chalk provided.  Above the wainscoting a spicy mustard yellow paint colour compliments the pine floor and vanity.  A perfect tiny antique brass candlestick lamp casts a mellow light on the chalkboard vanity top.

Back through the hallway and the antique double doors and you see the new kitchen to your right.  Once the family room with brick fireplace, we doubled the opening, added a brick arch that echoes the front entrance, and opened the existing arch from the servery to create a pass-thru.  The straw coloured reclaimed brick fireplace is once again a feature, and we added a bench, built into the side of the massive island with colourful cushions so Jenn can have a cozy spot to read her cookbooks and enjoy the warmth of the fire.

Schoolhouse Kitchen C

This is a kitchen like no other, an original master-work designed by Adele Barrett Interiors, executed by a local kitchen shop.  All the cabinets have been carefully aged with multiple applications of paint and glazes, in three distinct colours of Butter, Teal and Charcoal to give the impression that they were collected separately over many years.  There are tall teal painted cabinets standing guard beside the fireplace.  The glass doors have antique brass grills and brass tassel pulls.

Schoolhouse Kitchen D

The stove hood is finished in aged plaster and rises up from the stainless steel counter with large sweeping brackets, topped with a shelf to hold art and accessories.

The island and one wall of cabinets are in a buttermilk colour, with chunky dark round wood knobs reminiscent of old country kitchens.  The porcelain farm house sink looks right, along with the white, beige, and grey veined Calacatta marble top and backsplash.

Another free-standing unfitted cabinet is painted charcoal grey, a similar shade to that used on the servery cabinets. It has custom made recessed panelled doors with mission styling. A tiny flat screen T.V. is tucked into a niche alongside pottery and ceramic bowls.

Schoolhouse Kitchen B

But the most surprising and dramatic feature of the kitchen is the light fixture.  It is another one-of-a-kind piece, measuring five feet by seven feet, charcoal grey painted wood structure, reminiscent of metal I-beams forming a double capital “I” shape.  It has over twelve halogen recessed lights in it, spot lighting many different areas of the kitchen. It draws your eye up to look beyond it to the cathedral ceiling, which is panelled in pine boards and framed in rustic wood beams.  A large skylight was added to allow natural sunlight to illuminate the room.

Read about the other great room, including gym, loft office, and powder room in part three of this series.

Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part I
Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part III

Balloon Shades are back, so says Agatha Bak, a vibrant and beautiful young woman who runs her own company, Custom Home Décor, in Oakville.  You could say balloon shades are back to Bak (ha-ha!).  She is a drapery fabricator and workshop owner who works exclusively for area designers, from Niagara-on-the-Lake, to Toronto and Muskoka.

Agatha recently presented a seminar about the latest window drapery designs and tips to designers at The Decorating Centre, an exclusive designer’s only supplier in Burlington.

She says balloon shades may be back in fashion, but not the way we remember them; they have been re-invented.  Fabrics are all natural: linen, cotton sheers, silk, not the synthetics of the 80’s and 90’s.

Agatha’s background is not what you would expect; she started in the theatre industry, making period costumes.  After that, she apprenticed with a milliner, doing meticulous and painstaking sewing of hats.  Both gave her a creative start and love of fabrics and design.

Now, she uses that creativity to inspire and support designers, something she prefers to working directly with a customer.

Here is a taste of what Agatha says you should consider when approaching the design of challenging windows, such as, stacked double high, corner windows and arches.  She also presented her latest tips, and favourite treatments.

Paris Texas Hardware, available through decorators and designers, makes rods to fit any shape of window, including arches, pointed peaks, corner windows, and bay windows, to name a few.

Always hang draperies as high as possible to avoid making the window look squat.

You don’t have to treat all windows in a large room the same way.  Bak showed examples of two walls of windows, one with Roman shades, and the other in long drapery panels, but you must use the identical fabric for both.

Large grommets and stitched top pleats stack tighter, which is better when you need the panels to take up little window space, and expose the view.  She prefers very long and thin panels when the ceilings are high.

Flat panels of embroidered and patterned sheers are good replacements for tight sheers, with rods top and bottom.

Don’t be afraid to embellish your drapery.  She hand sews Swarovski crystals onto the panels to add sparkle when the room calls for it.

Grosgrain ribbon is a great add-on to Roman shades and drapery panels to customize them.

Roman Shades are very popular and have many advantages:  relaxed (softly draping folds instead of straight across), hobbled, and sheer are three popular styles.

London Shades, a cross between a Roman and a balloon shade, pull up and take up little space in a room, but are a pretty and functional window treatment.

Upholstered valances are a good way to add a tailored top to a window and hide hardware, but make sure it is long enough.  Bak isn’t fond of valances that are too short and look out of proportion to the ceiling and window height.

You can have an arched top on your window treatment to fake an arch-top window and make the window look much taller.

Please share a comment below…  
Do you like balloon shades?  Do you prefer roman shades?  Why?

This is the first in a series of articles about a charming and unique home in the country, just minutes from Hamilton.

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