coriander girl - christmas house

Around a year ago, I was scrolling through my instagram feed when I saw a shot of Alison Westlake's house. It pictured a stone fireplace, a roaring fire and a little white bunny named Harry. Alison as many of you probably know runs Coriander Girl, the floral design studio in Parkdale. I was so captivated by her charming house (which is actually a converted church) that I emailed her right away and asked if we could set up a Hello! Neighbour post. (I actually thought I was probably too late and that another magazine or online publication would have snapped her up.) Much to my delight the house hadn't been cornered by anyone else and she was delighted to be asked. However like most people she asked me to give her a few months to get it ship -shape ready. Months passed and life happened and suddenly I was working at Chatelaine magazine. As we were planning our winter lineups I kept Alison's stone hearth in the back of my mind. I just knew it would make a perfect Christmas home. In the heat of August we hatched a plan to shoot her converted church for our December issue. We took so many wonderful shots I just have to share some of the beautiful photographs with you today.

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0782Names: Alison, Tyler and Harry Hogan (the bunny).

Year home was Built: 1887

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0884How did you find your home?

We bought our first property in Belleville because the Toronto market was impossible for us. It was an adorable 100 year old walk up on East Hill, we were treating it like a cottage, coming down from Toronto every weekend. Once we were in the real estate game, I became a bit of an MLS junkie and found the church. We walked in, and I think I gasped, “well, we’re getting it!” You’re supposed to keep your cool in front of agents, so much for that!

It was love at first sight. The expansive ceilings, the hard wood floors, giant gothic windows, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a bidding war but our agent explained this is considered really unconventional living.

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0812Why did you choose to live in the country?

Tyler is from Prince Edward County, I’m Toronto born and when my parents divorced my mom remarried and we moved to this area (Quinte West), in fact I grew up 2 roads over from the church. I’ve done the Toronto, Quinte commute since I was 4.

When I was 18, I moved to the city full time. I pursued an acting career and worked in the service industry. In my late 20’s I started to question what I really wanted from a career, it felt like I was supposed to be doing something more. I also finally learned what I needed in a relationship. I met Tyler at a café in Parkdale, he made me my morning lattes and very quickly we became inseparable. Tyler believes that he was drawn to the city to find his love and bring her home. It’s no coincidence that this love inspired my career change, taking a leap of faith and opening Coriander Girl felt a lot less scary with a man championing my every move.

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0523What have you done to the church to make it your own?

The church had a few cheap modernizations that we promptly tore out. We loved the kitchen and didn’t have to do much but upgrade the counters, tile the backsplash and change out the cabinet hardware. There was already an addition on the back for bedrooms and that just needed a good paint job. We had to upgrade the windows, we still have the old ones and dream of restoring them one day but for now we just need to keep warm in here as we heat with wood only. The entire church was painted from floor to ceiling. (imagine Penny(Tyler’s mom) dangling 25 feet up cutting in!) New baseboards and door trim throughout and a chairrail was added for extra charm. The lights were swapped out for the classic schoolhouse style. The biggest job was probably changing the front doors on the church. It used to snow inside, we’d wake up to snow drifts in the foyer. My dad being a general contractor/craftsman was the only person for this job. The church was begging for old doors and we searched for months to find the right ones. These European ones with their arch top and original flower etching could not have been more perfect.



What is your favourite moment/room?

We talked about this and our favorite moment at the church remains the night we found Dance Mix 97, we had a great bottle of red wine on the go and literally danced all over the place. I imagine our neighbors got a good show if they happened to walk by!

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0692 How do you make the commute work?

We long for a time when we’ll get to be here together full time. I’m in the city 3 days a week and Tyler works in Prince Edward County so it’s not ideal but we always have 3 days off together every week and that’s pretty unique.  We’re absolutely in love with our home and so the next move would probably be out of necessity like expanding the family and needing more space although we could build a loft here and add another bedroom.

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0653 What's your holiday decorating style?

As you can see our holiday style is really subtle, almost Scandanavian with minimal less traditional color. Much like at Coriander Girl, we decorate so it feels festive but easy on the eyes.

I’m all about keeping it simple or I won’t do it because the shop is all consuming over the holidays. We lay fresh bows everywhere. I make simple fresh door swags, small and large and you can put them everywhere for an instant holiday look.  My joke is, “put a swag on it!” If you watch Portlandia you might get that reference.

122013_ALISONWESTLAKE_XMAS0752 What is your favourite holiday greenery?

My favorite has to be cedar, the smell is unmatched.

DSC_1363Do you have any holiday traditions?

Our marriage is still so young, I think we’re still finding our traditions. But family is key, seeing as much of each other’s families as we can. And what’s so cool is that are families actually adore each other so we can all get together for one incredible shin dig.

DSC_1428Many thanks to Alison and Tyler for sharing their home with us this holiday season. Check out the December issue of Chatelaine to see more photos.

All photos by Sian Richards.

my first issue - chatelaine

The moment has arrived! My first issue as Home Editor of Chatelaine magazine is on the newsstands and it is a big one. Little did I know that my first kick at the can would be for the 85th anniversary issue - talk about jumping in the deep end! chatelaine-3

If I do say so myself it is...gorgeous. We didn't shoot just one cover for the magazine, in fact we didn't shoot just two covers for the magazine. We shot FOUR covers and their reverse sides for a total of EIGHT covers.

chatelaine-4 Since we're celebrating we decided that a cake story would be appropriate. It was my job to prop style the cover shoot and my main task was finding cake stands of all shapes and sizes. I hunted high and low. I went to my usual haunts (Hawk Eyes, Mrs. Huizenga's, Rustica) and cleared their shelves and then I went looking for more.

chatelaine-2 I found a new amazing source of beautiful vintage cake pedestals completely by chance. Southern Charm Vintage Rentals in Whitby has an amazing selection of cake stands and all things wedding related. The owner Kathie Hess was a delight to work with. It definitely take a village to produce a magazine and she among others were a huge source of inspiration and help.


Inside the magazine I had the chance to introduce myself including a throw back photo to my youth. I think this photo was taken when I was about 10 years old on a trip to Whistler, BC.

chatelaine-1We also dug into our archives to see what the Home Department had been up to for the past 85 years. (In retrospect, it was a great introduction to the magazine!) The late 60s and early 70s were a treasure trove of inspiring interiors. (The 80s and 90s not so much!)

chatelaine-5 Many of the rooms that appeared in Chatelaine in those decades would look right at home today.However, I'm happy to see the trend of lining your bathroom in carpet and fun fur (one Chatelaine image I found had it on the floor, up the bathtub, on the walls and even on the ceiling - the copy said use double sided tape to apply!!) has gone by the wayside. I'll try and find that image tomorrow and tweet it. You have to see it to believe it!


I hope that you'll pick up the magazine and have a peek. By the way, did you know if you place all four magazines together you will form the whole tablescape of cakes. Give it a try!

home decor 101

For those of you that might not live in Canada or aren't familiar with Chatelaine magazine I thought I would show you a few snapshots from the hot of the presses Home Decor 101 publication that just came out. This is a special issue completely devoted to home design and it is chock full of goodness. photo (1)

All of the images and projects in the magazine are from home tours that Chatelaine has done over the past few years.



IMG_1113Obviously I can lay no claim to the brilliance of this magazine (and I really do think it is amazing). This book is the combined hard work of Virginie Martocq, Julia Black, Malcolm Patterson and all of the other talented designers on the Chatelaine design panel including Sarah Richardson, Tommy Smythe, Kimberley Seldon, Samanatha Pynn and Michael Penney.


IMG_1117I've been pouring over this magazine taking in all the beautiful photographs and inspiring details. Seeing all the homes back to back is super impressive. What a legacy Virginie Martocq (the former Home Editor) leaves behind! She has left me some big boots to fill. If you live in Canada you'll definitely want to pick this magazine up (and I'm not just saying that because I'm the new editor!!) I think the photos above say it all.

double whammy!

On Friday afternoon, I received a call from one of friends who said, "They're out - both magazines!" I couldn't believe it. I rushed over to the closest newsstand and there they were - both Chatelaine and Canadian House and Home.

I knew the publication dates were going to be close but I never expected they would come out on the same day.

The September issue of Chatelaine has the story on the bedroom makeover we did for one of our clients.  Last week, I gave you a little hint of what the finished room was going to look like and tomorrow I will share the final reveal with you. (Or you could rush out and pick up the magazine!)

The Canadian House and Home story is on our own humble abode. It's the story I've been hinting about for a few months now and is part of their special Makeovers issue only available on newsstands (in Canada today and in the United States on August 23rd) It contains all new photos of our house and some of my own tips for making wow-factor changes on a budget.

Here's a little sneak peak of how the story turned out.

I love the photographs Per Kristiansen took of our house. Having shot every conceivable angle in our home it was nice to see someone else's take on the house.

The article also contains a selection of before photos of the house that have never been seen before.

The new walnut shelf in our kitchen makes it's debut along with a very sweet shot of Henry on his tippy-toes!

Our bedroom finishes off the spread with a borrowed yellow throw from Hollace Cluny. The only item that was brought in as a prop for the shoot.

I also have a gallery of some of my favourite interiors up at House and Home so head on over there and take a look.  There are some images you have probably seen before but hopefully a few new ones as well!

Tomorrow, I'll be back with the bedroom makeover for Chatelaine magazine and on Wednesday (it's a busy week) I'll let you in on a little behind the scenes action of the House and Home shoot.