hello! neighbor - abigail & john

I'm just going to come out and say this...I LOVE this house. I knew the moment, Abi welcomed us into her home that we had stumbled upon something exquisite. This tall, renovated Victorian has the best of both worlds: beautifully preserved original period details combined with modern luxuries like the floor to ceiling glass window in the open kitchen. This house reminds me of the eclectic, bohemian homes you often see in the British Magazine Living Etc., maybe this is partly due to the fact that Abi grew up in England. From the exposed brick wall in the bathroom, to the original tiles around the fireplace, to the small, cast iron tub in the kitchen there is so much in this home that inspires. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Now, on with the tour!


Abigail Pugh and John Noyes


Freelance copywriter and Professor of German Literature

How long have you lived in your home?

2.5 years

Any kids or pets?

Abi - A daughter, Bathsheba - 23 months; Pippin, dog, Glory, cat.

John - Three older kids from a previous marriage, two boys and a girl, Sascha, Anjou and Indra, all living by themselves. Sascha is in England, Anjou and Indra in Toronto. My daughter Bathsheba is almost 2 and brings the whole house to life with her wit, imagination, and sunny disposition.

Which room do you spend the most time in?

Abi - We spend 90% of the waking hours that we are together in the house, in the kitchen and the play area adjacent.

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

Abi - If I could change (impossibly) one element of the house, it would be to widen our hallway - and add a cloak-room! I'd also switch it around so it's south, not north, facing (can this be arranged?).

Future plans include perhaps renovating our chimney so that we can have open fires in the grate on winter nights. My dream third floor would have steel skylights, like you see in Victorian factories.

John - Future plans, to get the third floor livable & workable. But we are renovation-weary.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Abi - I've lived in Parkdale since 1998 when that 'wrong side of the tracks' feeling isolated it from the rest of Queen West in an almost comically literal way. Affordability was a factor; but the grand, generous-scaled housing stock (a remnant from when Parkdale was the Rosedale of the West, and a genteel little dormitory suburb!) drew me here too. And the proud sense of community, great transit links and proximity to the lake. I love Parkdale's gloomy, serious charms; it doesn't feel like a neighbourhood that wears its identity lightly.

John - Abi lived here first & introduced me to this fascinating neighbourhood.

What if your favorite moment/object in your home?

Abi - Since our renovation, I have a few surprise favourite niches and moments here in this house. One is the sun pouring in through the etched glass bathroom door in the mornings before breakfast, inviting you in for a quiet morning soak.

Another, is waking up in our square, not-huge bedroom with its pretty proportions: two big windows, and a huge bed. With its pale painted floors and wooden, small but clean and open quality, it feels like waking up on a houseboat. The blockbuster family favourite moment/space is settling down to a meal at our kitchen island. It has that belly-up-to-the-bar, intimate-in-public feel that you get in your favourite watering hole, and yet also manages to feel like a scrubbed, workaday sideboard or harvest table. I like fiddling with the lighting, dimming and tweaking until it feels just right.

John - Favourite moment is coming home on my bike, looking through the kitchen window & seeing Abi & Sheba there waving at me. Favourite object is my Musical Paradise amplifier.

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

Abi - My stepmother Diana, who brought a bohemian, beaux arts sensibility into our tall London house during my childhood. With her carefree way with art, mirrors, pottery, rugs, and books, there was nothing humdrum about our domestic space. She never turned down a beautiful or fascinating object that came her way - and whether she could carry it home or there was space for it when it got there, were all considered entirely irrelevant concerns!

Because of her...like so many interiors-lovers now, I enjoy mixing kitsch, real craftsmanship, antiques (sometimes totally falling apart), modern, folksy and urban-glossy. It's fun to juxtapose these contrasting feels and histories and enjoy seeing them highlight and contrast each other. I like that, with enough eclecticism, a room won't date - it'll keep its relevance and interest through fashions and trends. This, to me, is what rescues home-making and decorating from being mere 'must have now' consumption or irresponsibly ephemeral. Of course, fashion has its role (and this is intriguing and keeps things fresh; one can't claim to be 'above' fashion) but so do comfort, nostalgia, sheer utility...objects or arrangements that simply make living in a house or room easier and more pleasant. My great grandfather's Stool of Ashanti looks abstract and totally modern because it butts up against a smooth, plain cream kitchen cabinet. Same fun with the modern cream-coloured rug and a roughed-up old door in our bedroom. One might look too beigy-boring on its own, the other too decrepid and scarred. But together, they rescue one another and make a little tableau to enjoy every day.

John - My inspiration comes from those I admire, both near and far, and those who trust & love me.

What is your favourite place to visit?

Abi - Favourite place to visit: the beach at Wards Island; kids' playgrounds in Berlin; a noisy table at the Rhino Bar and Grill, with my daughter and our friends.

John - Faraway, I love to visit Cape Town, where I lived for many years. Nearby, the Bruce Trail. Even closer, Ward's Island, and the little pebble beach at Humber Point.

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

Abi - Impossible to pin down, but one thing that comes to mind is a lovely 19th century painted glass beer jug that my Dad bought for me at an antique store in former East Berlin. It's functional, yet so delicate and whimsical: like something from a childrens' book with fairytale bird and forest images painted on it.

What are you reading right now?

Abi - Angela's Ashes. I somehow missed it when it came out in the mid-90's. It's a difficult, harrowing read but a page-turner too. Makes me feel so lucky to have the home comforts that are easy to take for granted! (The author caught typhoid through having one toilet for his entire street. Puts one's renovation hassles into perspective rather.)

John Freedom (Franzen)

Links or acknowledgements:

Abi - my partner John for weathering two renovations in 2 years with me and still being willing to discuss a paint colour or where a cushion should go. And my daughter for sitting so happily in her kitchen-tub night after night, making the space feel like a spa for babies! And also our friends, and Sheba's big sister Indra, who during summer evenings give meaning to the whole idea of the 'outdoor living room'. Of course, Josh Cohen who designed the main floor remodel and Dan Nostbaaken who built our kitchen. Doug from Post and Beam is a lovely guy and sells beautiful architectural salvage things.

Links: well, I love IKEA. Who doesn't? And for its drool-factor, I am partial to UK Elle Décor.

John - Abi for her devotion to our house and our family.


Thanks Abigail and John for inviting us into your home. It's been a pleasure!

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.


homework - getting started

Ugh, homework! Whose bright idea was it that I start this? Oh right, mine! The hardest part is figuring out where to begin. When I work with clients, the first thing I normally ask them to do is to gather a file of images full of ideas and inspiration. I ask them to grab anything that speaks to them. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be a fashion related, or a bouquet of flowers, or an image of their dream kitchen. Once they've gathered all the images, I ask them to take another look and be ruthless about what it is they like, discarding images along the way. By the end, we usually have a pretty good idea of the look we are hoping to achieve.

I also have one of these files where I store away images that I love. Before I started blogging and collecting images digitally, I would comb through magazines and tear out pages of homes that really spoke to me. I thought it might be interesting to go back to this file and see what I had collected. I guess I'm hoping I will find some clues that will point me in the right direction. I have to say (and I think Michelle alluded to this in one of her posts) that when your working with design images on a daily basis it is easy to become distracted and totally overwhelmed by choice. Going back to the beginning, so to speak, seemed like a good start.

Bedrooms - With the exception of the yellow four poster bed (that might look very familiar and hey, are those the DwellStudio stripe sheets as well!) the rooms I tend to favor are fairly simple with little or no pattern, neutral walls, white sheets, a little bit rustic, natural organic elements, modern, clean lines and comfortable. As you can see, I was heavily influenced by the yellow and grey bedroom for my current bedroom which is maybe not a true representation of what I like.

Bathrooms - Black or white walls again, warm textures, organic elements, historical accents like old radiators and clawfoot tubs, and a little bit rustic. These images seem on track with the majority of the bedroom images.

Living and Dining Rooms - Ok, what do I see hear? Again a mainly neutral palette with a preference for solid colours over pattern, lots of textural, organic elements like sheepskins, cowskins, antlers and carved wood, big prominent art on the walls, mainly low, modern furniture, sculptural lighting, a touch of the antique through old mirrors and chandeliers, slightly bohemian, informal and casual in feel.

Kitchens - The first things that jumps out at me here is wood whether it is rustic and rough or painted or beautifully crafted oak. Again, the palette is warm and neutral with a touch of the industrial, elements like the counters and backsplashes are made of natural materials, the kitchens looked lived in with some things on the counters and open shelves. There is a sense of history with the paneled doors and candlesticks.

Amazing, don't you think? There actually is a clear message being told here. Sure, there are a few exceptions but those are the ones you throw out!

I think if I had to put my style into words it would be something like this: A laid-back and neutral space with organic and historical elements and a touch of bohemian yet spare and modern. Ok, that's a bit of a mouthful but it's me. A layered room is always much more interesting anyway.

The next step in this process is to take a look at each of my rooms individually and see if they fit into the description above. I already know that some of my rooms are going to be in trouble! We'll see what makes the cut and what doesn't next Monday.

Image credits:
1) via Nice Room


Bohemian. That word gets thrown around a lot these days. But what does it really mean. I did a little research. (Don't worry I'm not going to give you a history lesson.) In most basic terms it is a wanderer, adventurer or traveller.

It is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle often in the company of like minded people involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits, with few permanent ties. Lord Byron was a bohemian. So was Hemingway and the Beat Poets in Tangier. Hippies are bohemians. Talitha Getty was a bohemian. Nicole Richie dresses like a bohemian.

So what is Bohemian style then?

Often it is a combination of textiles, art, and objects collected from around the world mixed with antiques and other vintage pieces. There is a laid back and relaxed spirit about these homes where nothing is too precious. Bohemian style doesn't necessarily mean you are a Bohemian. It is also partly an attitude - an appreciation for travel, friends, and good times.

In recent years a few book have been published that attempt to define and illustrate the bohemian lifestyle. Laren Stover's Bohemian Manifesto: a Field Guide to Living on the Edge breaks bohemians into five categories. Julie Chaplin's new book Gypset chronicles the jet set gypsy clan as they travel the world bartering residences and following the sun.

I decided to throw together a few images of what bohemian style looks like to me. Is this what you think of when you hear the word bohemian?

All images Francois Halard

cast your vote: chair update

A few weeks ago I posted about wanting new chairs for my dining room. Nothing has changed...I would still love a new set of seats for myself and our guests. But there are wish lists and there is reality. After having snapped up one to many rugs at the antique market last weekend (did I fail to mention in my previous post that I bought three rugs that day, oh yeah...) I had to get creative. With Myles' parents arriving from out of town and two of our dining room chairs loose at the hinges I had to look around and see what I could come up with. Then I remembered that we had some Eames fiberglass shell chairs in our basement. (Watch this very cool video from the 1970s showing how these chairs were handcrafted. I love my chairs even more after having watched this.) We had bought them for our first place here in Toronto and have used them mainly as outdoor chairs ever since. I brought them upstairs, laid one of the new rugs on the floors and ta da...not bad.

I'm contemplating purchasing some wooden dowel bases to update the Eames chairs.

via Apartment Therapy

What do you think?