Monthly Archives: February 2011

hello! neighbor – finn & marilyn


Happy Monday everyone. Time for a little Hello! Neighbor house tour.

This month we’re visiting Finn & Marilyn who live in one of the old industrial loft buildings in my neighborhood. There’s a handful of these authentic live/work buildings on the edges of one of our local parks with a view out to the CN Tower. This is the first time I have showed a loft which is really exciting. Personally, I love the unfinished aesthetic of these spaces with the exposed ceilings, rough brick, and huge windows. Living in an open concept space has its own particular challenges and I think Finn & Marilyn have done an excellent job of using their square footage. This might also be the most Canadian post I have ever done! I believe there are at least three references to hockey in this post, one to canoeing and another to The Arctic. Let’s hear it for Canada!

Enjoy the tour!


Finn and Marilyn


Photographer and RMT

How long have you lived in your home?

4.5 years

Any kids or pets?

No pets, but I’d love a cat and we have a baby due in March!

Is there anything you would change about your house? Future plans?

Marilyn: The front hall wallpaper and the flooring. The front hall has always felt a bit cold to me. I was so close to taking off the wall paper, but after much discussion about possible wall damage I chickened out!

Finn: White carpets are tough, so hardwood floors would be nice. We’re planning on moving soon, so no ambitious plans right now.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Finn: I took over a friend’s place on Grafton Avenue, ten years ago and loved living so close to the Antique Alley.

Marilyn: I met Finn when he was renting on Grafton Avenue five and a half years ago. We took a bike tour of the neighborhood one day and checked out some of the older loft buildings that we would like to live in and as luck would have it, we got an opportunity to buy this place shortly after. We really fell in love with the space and couldn’t believe what good fortune we had!

Which room do you spend the most time in? Why?

Marilyn: It’s sort of one big space, but I’d say the kitchen is where I hang out…I like to cook.

Finn: Definitely the kitchen. It’s a real focal point to our place. I love to cook and love having a functioning, robust kitchen.

What is your favorite moment/object in your home?

Finn: I really love going to bed late when there’s a full moon. The bedroom gets filled with a beautiful, blue light. Also fond of my double bit Best Made Axe. It commemorates the gold medal win in hockey at the Vancouver Olympics.

Marilyn: Sunday mornings in the backyard in the summer, with doors wide open, coffee and the paper. It’s like a private oasis in the park. I also love our black Moooi kitchen light shade, Sapien bookcase and the colors in the smash up derby photo that Finn took.

What influences you? Where do you get your design inspiration from?

Finn: The Arctic. My cottage. Marilyn. My friends. The New York Times. Summer. Winter. Long drunken conversations with friends. Playing hockey. Canoe tripping.

Marilyn: I like to browse the vintage shops on Queen, near Roncesvalles. I also like modern design and get inspired through images and blogs.

What is your favorite place to visit?

Marilyn: The Cottage. There are places I’ve yet to find, but I fell in love with New York City and think about it often, especially our trip to the MoMa. I saw the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit…it was pretty rad. It really moved me.

Finn: I really do love visiting my family in the U.K. Always an adventure and always filled with love.

If you had to choose one object that best described you what would it be?

Finn: A Swiss Army knife: great at many things, master at none.

Marilyn: My bike…it’s Italian and really fast.

What are you reading at the moment?

Finn: The Tropic of Hockey by Dave Bidini

Marilyn: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

Thanks Finn and Marilyn and good luck with your new home and baby!

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.

Filed under hello! neighbor

the friday files


Do you find yourself drawn to images of homes where real people live compared to the more studied and composed interiors of professional designers?

During the past week, I’ve  had some time to catch up on my magazine reading and I keep thinking about the interview I read in the new issue of House & Home magazine with Christiane Lemieux of DwellStudio. As many of you probably know, Christiane has a new book coming out called Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design. In the interview she states, “the arbiters of style have completely changed. It’s not decorators I look to for inspiration anymore; its real people. The great thing about the democracy of design via the Internet is that it’s borderless.”  In essence, Christiane is promoting the idea of DIY design and is looking to the internet and blogs for her inspiration. She later states, “the Internet offers so much proof that the most vibrant style ideas are coming from the minds of real people.”

Wow, what do you think of this?  Are design bloggers the new leaders when it comes to championing a look or setting trends? Are we blazing a trail that promotes a more “real” aesthetic – that is more attainable to the everyday reader? Have the tables turned – are magazines looking to blogs for story ideas and inspiration?

In the January “Trends” issue of Style At Home magazine, they ran a story about blogger style where they highlighted elements like: faux fur, ikat, eclectic lighting, tribal patterns, collected glassware and graphic type as indicative of the look bloggers tend to favor. The article states, “the decor approach is playful, making iconic pieces accessible by mixing them with DIY projects; putting together simple, lovely vignettes; and incorporating collections with a global flair.”

I do think we are seeing a looser, more personal aesthetic creeping into magazines and I think that part of that is due to the proliferation of images of everyday people’s homes on the internet. Personally , I get no pleasure out of seeing an “decorated” home with perfectly matched upholstery and composed furniture arrangements and colour coordinated artwork. They’re lifeless and boring and predictable. I think homes should reflect the individuals that live in them and feel authentic and that means that things won’t be perfect!

What do you think? Are design bloggers setting trends with our eclectic, DIY style? Has the Internet democratized design?

Here are a few shots gathered from personal home tours around the blogosphere.

Oh and I’ll be back here on Monday with my Hello! Neighbor tour for February! Have a great weekend.

Image Credits:
1 ) Bloesem
2 ) The Selby
3 ) Design*Sponge
4 ) The Selby
5 ) Design* Sponge
6 ) Freunde von Freunden
7 ) Freunde von Freunden
8 ) HGTV Style Sheet
9 ) HGTV Style Sheet
10 ) Design* Sponge

Filed under the friday files

fifty-two objects – no.8


Object number eight in my quest to document my life in 52 Objects might seem like a strange choice to some of you. What’s so important about a designer bag? A little background…growing up as a teenager in the Eighties was all about the preppy look for me and what “label” I was wearing. Do you remember those days? At some point, I asked my parents for a Louis Vuitton purse and they kindly obliged. I must have had them wrapped around my finger!

Funny thing is that I have never stopped using this purse. I don’t bring it out on a regular basis anymore but once or twice a year it gets to see the light of day. It has actually become better with age which is a testimony to its quality craftsmanship. More than anything this purse reminds me of a time in my life when I was just starting to assert my independence and define my own self.

Do you have any objects like this that sort of define a period or time in your life? Things you just can’t part with?


Filed under fifty-two objects

around the house


Here are just a few things that have been happening around The Marion House lately.

Last weekend, I found myself in Ikea shopping for a laundry basket and some storage boxes and instead came home with two Enje blinds for our kitchen windows. I’ve bought these blinds before, for the same windows in fact, but returned them when they didn’t fit. If you’re like me and live in an old house you probably have windows that are all slightly different in size. Case in point: the left hand window in our kitchen measures 31.5 inches and the right hand window measures 29 inches. Why, is beyond me!  Luckily, I had read this post by Anna at Door Sixteen the night before and thought I was up for a little DIY blind alteration. Anna does such an incredible job of explaining step by step how to do this that she makes it really easy and stress-free to do. We actually got both windows done in the time it takes H. to nap. Here’s the before:

And the after (it’s there look closely – believe me!):

As you can tell from the photo, the Enje blind isn’t a totally opaque blind instead it just gently filters the light and gives us a bit of privacy.

In total, I spent $60 on these two blinds. If I had gone the custom route, I would have been lucky to walk out the door with less than $60 in fabric.

I think they look pretty good. It’s a clean, simple look that works with our kitchen and just makes it look a little more finished off. They certainly help hide our less than attractive, useless windows. (One day, we will get around to replacing them!)

Our other big home improvement over the weekend came in the form of this new Dyson vacuum cleaner. The last time I bought a new vacuum was back in 1992. Yes, almost 20 years ago! Frustrated having to find bags for it all the time and disappointed in its sucking power I thought the time had come. This was one purchase, I was willing to spend a bit of money on because I figured if I had it for 20 years than the higher price tag would be worth it. I do believe you get what you pay for. Having said that, we didn’t go top of the line with our new vacuum. We just bought the basic Dyson and I am thrilled with it.

Did you know that this vacuum is in the collections of both The Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum? Also, they send you email reminders every time your filters need cleaning and to top it all off they have a helpline in Toronto where real people with hands-on access to all the Dyson vacuum cleaners are standing by. Needless to say, that’s service my old Panasonic never had!  Is anyone else out there a Dyson fan?

I’ve also been trying out some of the recipes in Nigella Lawson’s new cookbook, Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home. You know how much I love, love, love Nigella! I enjoy reading her recipes as much as I love making them. She always gives a bit of her own perspective which I find totally engrossing. One morning last week, H. and I made these Blueberry Cornmeal muffins bright and early (like before I even had coffee!)

They were delicious and kept H. busy as he picked each blueberry out individually. I also found they were even better the second day which is always a nice surprise! The recipe is on my Facebook page here.

Finally, last week I visited a house in our neighborhood for an upcoming Hello! Neighbor tour and it reminded me so much of the eclectic, charming homes often seen in the British magazine, Living Etc. I love the relaxed but stylish feel of these homes where new and old mingle gracefully and bright wall colours lead the way. The two images below, both from Living Etc., remind me very much of the house I just visited.

What do you think? Are you tempted to paint your walls a bright colour after seeing these images? I have to admit when I left that home last week it did cross my fickle mind but then I thought back to my homework and stayed the course. I think what I need is another house to live out a different decorating fantasy in! You too?

Filed under house projects, you make it