toronto life - city homes

Back in December, the week before Christmas to be exact, I met with the editor-in-chief of the Toronto Life special interest publications, Maryam Sanati. Toronto Life, for those of you who don't live here, is a monthly magazine that covers everything that goes on in the city of Toronto from restaurants to real estate to shopping to current events. It also releases about six special interest publications a year. Maryam asked me if I would be interested in writing a couple of stories for them for their special City Homes edition of the magazine. Of course, I jumped at the chance. {By the way, do you recognize that house on the cover? It's none other than Jana and John's home from one of my Hello! Neighbor tours.)

My assignments were to find 15-20 unusual, off the beaten path decorating items for kid's bedrooms (divided into three schemes: the athletic child, the scholarly child and the artistic child) and to pull together five different tabletop settings. Today, I'll show you how the kid's room story turned out and next week I'll post about the dinnerware.

My direction was to think out of the box and come up with items that you might not normally put in a kid's room. The task was harder than it seemed! However, after driving all over the city I did come up with a few unusual treasures. For example, that soapbox car in the first image is an actual antique kid's race toy that I found at Smash. It's probably not practical for most urban sized bedrooms but if you had the space it sure would be great. Looking at the first photo you can also see how Henry's bedroom might have turned out if I had gone with moodboard number one. I think I was heavily influenced by my shopping sprees around the city for that scheme!

For the scholarly child, I love this vintage map from Post & Beam Reclamation. In fact, someone told me the other day that they saw a map like this installed as a window blind in a child's room which I thought was a smart idea.

For the artistic child, I found these great mobiles by local artist Dennis Lin. I'm very tempted to pick one of these up for the nursery as our other one was destroyed. And you can't help but love the Keith Haring rocker from The Drake General Store  - talk about a hip baby.

On a side note, the magazine also ran a few photos of our house.

It was a pleasure to have Michael Graydon come by and shoot our home. All around I'm thrilled with how the stories turned out. Thanks to everyone at Toronto Life for  making it happen. Those editors work tirelessly to bring these pages to you and they deserve a ton of credit!


new pure green

The latest issue of Pure Green Magazine is out and it features a home well loved by readers of The Marion House Book. I'm sure you remember Rachel and Paul's Hello! Neighbor tour of their whimsical country home filled with vintage and flea market finds.

I love how different the house looks in these photographs. It's a testament to the crafty skill and decorating prowess of the homeowners. There is honestly so much to feast your eyes on in this space.

For more images of Paul and Rachel's house plus other great features, visit Pure Green to see a sneak peek of the new issue or subscribe to the magazine here. If you live in the Toronto area, you can pick up an issue at Coriander Girl in Parkdale or at Love the Design in Leslieville. Or check out this complete list of stockists.

By the way, if you love Rachel's aesthetic you should stop by her recently opened store in Orono, Sunday's Child. It features a selection of vintage goods hand selected by her and her partner Jude Allison. Even better, the store also offers hands-on workshops where she and other experts will help you craft, knit, sew, crochet, felt or hot glue your own creation. If you live in the city, make a day of it. It only takes about an hour to drive to Orono from Toronto. Spend the day strolling the numerous vintage stores on the Main Street and then book yourself into a workshop at Sunday's Child. I can't think of a better way to spend a winter's afternoon!

Ever Images


hello!neighbor - anja and andreas

Well, here we are in the final week leading up to Christmas. No doubt, most of us still have lots to do! If you have a moment, take a look at this special Christmas edition of Hello! Neighbor. Anja and Andreas kindly welcomed us into their home a couple of weeks ago, hours after they finished decorating it for the holidays. It's a really stunning house with many of the original details still in tact including beautiful woodwork in the hallway and the most amazing radiator covers I have ever seen. You'll also notice throughout the house, Anja's own deft sewing skills. She made the pouf in  the living room, the quilt in the master bedroom (styled after a Hudson's Bay Blanket) and the blinds in the upstairs bedrooms. As we head into the New Year, I'll be on the lookout for more homes to feature in the Parkdale neighbourhood. If you think your house would be a good fit, drop me a line.

Enjoy the tour!


Anja, Andreas and Oscar Duess


Client Rep and VP at Marsh Canada Limited  and  Partner and Chief Creative at fisheye corporation.

How long have you lived in your home?

 About 4 years

When was your home built?


Any kids or pets?

Our son Oscar is 18 month and we have three cats, Oswald, Felix and Bella

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

Anja: Living room, just love hanging out at the fire place

Andreas: The kitchen. I am the cook in the family, cooking is my way to relax after work.

What were the major changes you  made to the house?

It used to be a rooming house, so slowly over time taking over apartments and returning it to being a single family home. We're carefully peeling back the layers and were lucky enough to find some of the original features, such as cast iron radiator covers and high baseboards.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

We moved to Canada in 2004 and always lived in the West End, first Roncesvalles, then the Brockton Triangle and finally fell in love with our house on Melbourne Avenue.  We met and got married in London, UK; Parkdale has a very similar vibe to the part of town where we both lived at the time, Islington. When we first looked at Parkdale, we felt at home immediately.

What are your favourite holiday/Christmas traditions?

Love the advent calendar. Candles, yes we have real candles in the tree. Gluehwein (mulled wine), Christmas songs, dinner with family and friends. We are big Christmas nerds.

What is on your Christmas table? Do you have a traditional meal you serve each Christmas?

Andreas: Every Christmas my dad used to make a herring salad for Christmas eve. It's a meal in itself, with beets, walnuts, diced roast beef and sour creme. Every Christmas I plan on making it myself, but it's ton of work, so far I've never got around to it.

Anja: Our tradition is roast version with red cabbage, pan fried Brussels sprouts and mashed or roast potatoes. Dessert is usually bread and butter pudding but this year I'll make a chocolate and red beet cake.

What is your favourite Christmas song?

Winter Wonderland

What are you hoping Santa brings you this year?

Anja: In general that my family remains healthy and happy. If you mean presents, I'd love to find a bag from Sarra Tang' s Hoi Bo design firm under the tree.

Andreas: Materially, we try to reduce clutter and stuff in our lives, so we're not big present people. I love reading, we both love and collect art, that kind of thing. I also love cooking and last year Anja got me a stove top smoker, which was pretty much the best Christmas present ever.

Thanks for welcoming us into your home Anja and Andreas and Happy Christmas!

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book


hello! neighbor on the ipad

How many of you out there own ipads? What's your verdict? I'm curious to hear from those of you that own one how much you use it, what you use it for, and whether or not it is any improvement over having a laptop computer. I've had very little personal interaction with ipads. Other than peering over someone's shoulder as they use one or swiping a few screens in the Apple store my experience is pretty limited.

And how are the apps - particularly the magazine ones? I'll admit that the most impressive thing I have ever seen on an ipad is Martha Stewart's magazine. I seem to remember a peony flower blooming before my eyes on the cover! Are there any other magazines on the ipad that are more impressive than their paper cousins?

Of course, if I did own an ipad I'd be able to see some of my own stories on it. 2 For Couples magazine publishes some of my Hello! Neighbor stories on its website and ipad app.

I just received the latest one in my inbox. Up to now, I've only experienced these stories as still photographs. Maybe, it's time I invest in an ipad so I can see them in action! To see the full story and more photographs, you can purchase the app here.

If you're an ipad owner, I'd love to hear what you think of it!