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

homework - part one

Have you been reading Michelle's posts over at Holley & Gill lately? They've really been striking a chord with me. It's like she is reading my mind or something! She wrote one a few weeks ago called, "Commitment Issues" that talked about staying true to your design vision. In essence, she said if you stray from the style you love eventually you will go back and fix it. Accompanying the post were a selection of beautiful images that highlighted different genres like eclectic, rustic industrial and clean and classic. Michelle says:

When designing rooms, determining, or more importantly sticking to a style demands focus and confidence. Experts will agree that if you waver, the entire picture will falter. Following through and truly committing to your decisions is fundamental in putting together a successful design without regret or disappointment.

I couldn't agree with her more and it's actually something I've been struggling with lately in my own home. Seeing my house in photographs, I find the picture falters every now and then. There are design decisions I regret, purchases I shouldn't have made, and things if I had the chance to do again I would do differently. Yes, I admit it I have commitment issues!

If you're anything like me, your probably drawn to more than one style; rustic, modern, eclectic, bohemian, classic the list goes on and on! The trick is finding the look that defines you (which is probably a mixture of things) and then staying consistent. Consistency is key! My problem is that I haven't been focused. I didn't have a vision or a plan when I started working on this house and it shows. The houses I admire most are ones where the vision is clear and the home has a cohesive feel from room to room that never falters. Just take a look at the examples below.

So for the next few Monday's, I'm going to take a step back and do a little homework. I'm going to make some notes, takes lots of photographs and really evaluate my home. I hope you won't find this too self indulgent or boring! Throughout the process, I'm going to be really critical and I hope you will be the same. I'd love to hear what you think - whether or not I have it all wrong or whether I'm on the right track. Oftentimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference.

To begin with, I thought it would be good to give you a little more background of where I started with the Marion house. Let's face it, very few of us walk into a new house with a blank slate. First, you have to deal with the bones of your new house which may include material and surface choices you wouldn't have chosen and may not be able to change. Then there is the furniture you already own. And finally, there's that thing called a budget which can really play havoc with your dreams! Even with all these factors, I think it is still possible to achieve the look you aspire too.

So where did I start....

Before moving into the Marion house we lived a few blocks North in a home that had been stripped of most of its original features. The house had last been renovated back in the 60s or 70s and was due for an update.

With this house we were very lucky, we pretty much had a blank slate and were able to do what we wanted. We owned very little furniture and had few possessions. My vision for the house was what I would call organic modern. The colour scheme was shades of white mixed in with lots of natural, textural elements. One of the best decisions we made was to replace all the flooring in the house with wide plank, white oak wood floors that were oiled instead of varnished. I'm not sure how successful I was in fulfilling my "vision" but these were early days. (I apologize for the quality of the photos - who knew I'd be blogging one day!))

As you can see, when we moved into the Marion house we brought most of our existing furniture with us and made it work. Many of these pieces I chose because I loved them so it only made sense to use them again. The dining room table, the Bertoia chairs, the coffee table, the cowskin rug, the credenza, and the fig tree have all found new places to exist in our house. So this is where I started, with a house full of furniture from a different vision. Next Monday, I'll start my homework and take a look at what I think is working and what isn't. Like I said, I hope you'll be critical and indulge me in this work. By the end of a process, my goal is to have a long term plan - a vision - of where to take the house in the next few years.

Image credits:

1) Emily Henderson
2) Rum
3-5) Living Etc.

michelle's cast your vote

Today readers you're in for a treat! For the first time EVER we're going to get a sneak peek inside Michelle's house of Holley & Gill fame.

She tells me that while many bloggers and readers have asked her in the past she has declined up to now. Lucky me! I'm so happy she chose The Marion House Book for her virgin experience. And to make it even better, she is asking you to help her out with her very own Cast Your Vote question. So, don't let me down, please Cast Your Vote and tell Michelle what you would do! Here's Michelle...

When I first found Emma’s blog a few months back, I immediately identified with her sharp aesthetic and vision and am now lucky enough to have been invited to put together a guest post for her here. I must come clean with you though, as while you are reading this I’ve somewhat enlisted your help, as Emma has in the past, with a decor dilemma of sorts so please bare with me. I had the chance to have brunch and shop at Montreal’s biggest craft fair called Puces Pop on one cloudy October day, with three lovely and inspiring ladies who I respect and adore. Anile, Marie-Eve, Bess and I met in a trendy breakfast spot on the Plateau called The Sparrow. Once well fed, we headed out to the old church basement around the corner for what seemed like a gathering of all the “who’s who” of the Canadian handmade trade. A feast for our eyes indeed.

While there, we met and chatted with so many notable artists and artisans who could not have been any more friendly. Many of them we recognized from seeing their work in magazines or even from profiling them on our blogs. We had almost finished winding our way through all the displays when we landed on this stunner, sat alone and tucked away in a corner. I stopped, as if in an art gallery, admiring it for what felt like quite a some time. The artist’s name was Robert Biesinger and his work was incredible.

I did not purchase it immediately. We went outside to get some air and I knew that if I were to walk away from it, I would certainly regret it. In the end, it did come home with me along with this as well.

Now here is my dilemma, the framing. We had quite a substantial wall space to cover above our sideboard and am now very happy with the proportions of this vignette. I would love to hear your feedback or suggestions on what to use for the framing of it. Black, white, metallic, with or without a mat, there are so many choices but would like to ask you for your advice!

Dear readers, please help Michelle and Cast Your Vote!