artist's studio & a winner

It's actually a holiday today in Canada so I'm just popping in briefly to announce the winner of the smock top giveaway. The winner of the Patouche top is Airin who loved the red leg warmers.  Congratulations Airin! We'll be in touch with you shortly.

Finally, I'd thought I'd leave you with some images of Donald Judd's former studio at 101 Spring Street in New York. The Design Observer has a great essay that Donald Judd wrote about preserving this 19th century cast iron building and the condition it was in when he bought it. Definitely worth a read if you have few moments this holiday Monday.

What I wouldn't do to get my hands on a place like this!





Image credits:
Elizabeth Felicella via The Design Observer

hello! neighbor - kessa & len

As I promised yesterday, I'm back with a look at Kessa and Len's enchanting home. If you ask me, it's not that different from her children's clothing line. It is grown up and sophisticated while still being playful and whimsical. The vintage elements and interesting uses of textiles also echo the line. Kessa does have one question for you all. If you were to choose a pendant light for over her dining room table what would you suggest. She is open to anything. I know you will have lots of good suggestions for her. And don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a Patouche smock top for your little one (or someone else's little one). You can do so my leaving a comment on yesterday's post.

Enjoy the tour!


Kessa and Len


Kessa - Creative Director of Patouche - a children’s clothing collection that’s made in Toronto.

Len – Civil Engineer

How long have you lived in your home?

1 year (but we’ve owned it since 2001-it was rented out as two apartments and then we converted it back into a single family home)

Any kid or pets?

Kessa - 2 kids-Elton (6) and Jessie Bea (4)

Len - We had a cat but it’s moved on to a better place.

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

Kessa - During the waking hours I’m probably in the kitchen the most unless I’m gearing up for a show in which case I can be found down in my sewing studio in the basement.

Len – I spend most of my time in the living room / dining room. The couch is relatively new, and it’s great for flaking out on.

Is there anything you would change about your house?

Kessa - I’d love a porch. We had one at our old place and I miss it.  A second floor laundry room would drastically improve my quality of life (sad, but true).

Len - Man space or a shed in the yard would be nice.

Future  plans?

Kessa - For this Spring we’re taking the focus outside to make the backyard livable-lots of container plants, a fence/storage shed and a great spot for al fresco dining. Further down the road (or possibly a pipe dream): A library in the attic.

Len - Milestones in my life are partly defined by renovation and construction.  They’re a sustaining elixir, keep the blood going... make me feel alive! So I'm chomping at the bit for another big project, to my wife’s chagrin.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Kessa - I moved here in 2000 after a couple of years of travelling and studying in Europe. I rented a room and then got my own apartment later on.  Len and I first spotted each other in front of the Parkdale library while waiting for the Queen streetcar.  Since then, we’ve lived in and renovated 3 houses together in the neighborhood in the last 7 years.

Len - In 1998 there were outrageous line-ups for rentals.  So I purchased because it was cheaper and less hassle than renting. Parkdale’s edge seduced me.

What is your favorite moment/object in your home?

Kessa – Object: Our custom-made harvest table made from barn boards. Moment: Last thanksgiving when we hosted dinner for 23. Our table was in full use!

Len - My favorite moments are spent doing things unrushed with the kids.  Drawing comics, writing letters, words, doing math, it’s the best; there is nothing in the world I’d rather do.

Where did you come up with the name for your company?

Kessa - I was looking for a playful word from my childhood.  Patouche is what we used to call my little brother. I liked that is sounds a little French and since starting the business I’ve learned it has all sorts of meanings from Quebecois, Dutch and Arabic-all of them kid related.

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

Kessa - I love cotton prints from the 50’s, Japanese design for children’s products, glimpses of other people’s homes, favorite blogs and online magazines. Tradeshows are really inspiring and a great time for new ideas to bubble up.

Len - Inspiration is drawn from those I meet or read about that defy odds, that contribute to the public good, that do not waver in the face of fatigue and leapfrog over the drudgery of life.

What is your favourite place to visit:

In Toronto I love dinner in Little India-all you have to do is cross the city to feel like you’re travelling.

In Ontario I love canoe camping at Killarney park. We took the kids for their first backcountry trip last summer and they loved it. My daughter kept a pocketful of pine needles in her coat to remind her of the place.

Abroad: Greece. Silver light and the Aegean. I just got back from a reunion trip in April. I went to an art school there 13 years ago and it’s remained to be the best educational experience of my life.

Len - The woods and other relatively wildish places.

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

Kessa - A Swiss army knife in a quilted cozy.  Definitely a Jill of all trades type with an appreciation for handmade.

Len - 5-in-1 or a hammer, maybe?

What are you reading at the moment?

Kessa - Just finished up Julia Child’s “My Life in France” about to tackle “War and Peace”

Len - Heat, by George Monbiot.  Optimistic... maybe we won’t all fry up to a crisp after all, unless we keep on voting in climate change deniers.

Any links or acknowledgements?

Kessa - Thanks to Len for being as strong as an ox (in mind and body) and forging ahead without being daunted (and for always remembering to take out the garbage!).

I’m also supremely grateful to Liz Noble , friend and creative maven, for her insight in helping to see my home with fresh eyes and knowing how to make what you’ve got look it’s best.  She helped stage our last house when we sold and I recently had her in to help with some problem areas that had me stumped.

Len - a big thanks to my wife for being the glue that keeps it all together hurtling along at 60 mph.

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.

Kessa has also kindly sent me links for some of the photographs.
Photo #3 Hallway - coat rack, side table Simply Home , butterfly mobile
Photo #4 Kitchen - painting by Michael Gerry
Photo #5, 6 and 14  Living room - Bird print on linen - Bookhou ,  Encaustic bird paintings by Liz Noble, light box - Christie Greyerbiehl
Photo #7 Chair in Hallway - Print -  Julie Morstad
Photo #8 Upstairs Den - knitting basket - Jenna Rose
Photo #9 Dining Room - cabinet -  Simply Home , chairs from The Painted Table
Photo #10 Kid's room - desk from Mrs. Huizenga, photograph - Theater Clouds
Photo #12 Table in bedroom - painting photograph - Kathryn Boyd,  larger photograph -  Elle Moss, Flowers - crocheted flowers


Thanks Kessa and Len.

a patouche giveaway!

Last fall I was wandering around the One of a Kind Show in Toronto when I came across the Patouche booth. Patouche is a children's clothing line that is handmade by the very talented, Kessa Laxton, right in my own neighborhood. I admit that the moment I saw her girl's clothing line a very small,teeny-tiny, very miniscule part of me was sad that I have son!

I mean, come one, it's like these girls just stepped out of a childrens fable complete with little duffel coats, aprons and clogs! (And if you think this is cute, you should check out the little red riding-hood cape she makes.) Kessa started Patouche by making clothes for her own two kids after a career as a designer and scenic artist in the theatre world. She is committed to running a sustainable company and uses natural fibres like cotton and linen, wool blends that are milled in Quebec, vintage fabric trims, and limited-run styles that use end-of-the-roll fabrics from select Toronto woman's wear designers. Lucky for me and mom's of boys everywhere her boy's line is equally enchanting referencing swashbuckling pirates and roving scallywags. (Henry has one of the pirate hats and a pair of shorts complete with a pouch for his pirate booty!)

Back at the booth I struck up a conversation with Kessa about how much I loved her sophisticated yet whimsical children's line. After a few minutes of talking, I realized we lived in the same neighborhood and had some mutual friends in common. Always, on the lookout for new homes in my vicinity, I asked her if she would be willing to open her doors for a Hello! Neighbor house tour. She happily obliged and has us over. Tomorrow, I will back here with the complete tour of her house which believe me, is as charming as her clothing line.

But before we do that Kessa has kindly donated one of her Patouche smock tops as a giveaway! The reversible smock top is one of her most popular items and can be worn by 8 month olds to 3-4 year olds. It works on its own or transitions into fall layered with another long sleeve top.

She is giving away is the orange and brown version seen in the photo below.

In order to enter just leave a comment below telling me what item you like best from the Patouche store. The giveaway ends Sunday, May 22nd at midnight EST. I'll announce the winner next Monday. Enter away and don't forget to come back tomorrow to see inside Kessa's lovely, creative home.

Image Credits:
Lisa Kannakko for Patouche


one of a kind show -top three picks

As promised earlier today, below are my top three picks for what to look out for at The One of a Kind Show in Toronto this year.Top Pick #1 - Ceramik B.

Basma Osama's porcelain ceramics made under the name Ceramik B. are absolute perfection. This minimalist collection of bowls, plates, cups, and platters produced in a limited colour palette just begs to be touched and held. I think part of the beauty of these forms is seeing how the organic shapes work together in stacks and layers. These are the kinds of housewares you want to buy in multiples and have displayed on an open shelf in your kitchen. They are too beautiful and sensuous to be hidden away behind cabinet doors. I think I might start with the cups and grow my collection from there. A definite must-see at The One of a Kind Show. Top Pick #2 - Felt Factory

Felt Factory has one of the smaller booths at The One of a Kind Show but that doesn't stop them from delivering a powerful punch. As part of the Rising Star's portion of the show, Sabine Alpers, the woman behind these Faux Fauna, is a first time presenter. Her whimsical, felted trophy heads mounted on logs are a playful poke at traditional taxidermy. All vegetarian friendly! Her menagerie includes everything from bison to sheep to unicorns. It's worth taking a look at her beautifully designed website to see the names she gives to each of these creatures!

Top Pick #3 - Patouche

My final pick for this year's One of a Kind Show is the children's clothing line Patouche. Kessa Laxton, the woman behind these imaginative coats, hats, capes, and booties started this company in her kitchen sewing clothes for her own children. She now sells in retailers across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Her clothes have an old world elegance and recall the stories and fables we all grew up with. There are little red riding capes, pirate hats, tweed coats, bonnets and booties for your little ones. Clothes that both parents and children can delight in. I'm definitely heading back to pick up a pirate hat for Henry.

Again, if you can't make it to The One of a Kind Show in Toronto be sure to check out the websites of each of these artisans. Almost all have an online store where you can purchase their products. As the holiday season approaches, it's great to keep these independent retailers in mind. Wouldn't you like to receive something that has been crafted out of love and dreams?