Ask A Designer: How To Create A Chic & Cheery Home Office

In this Ask A Designer column, Stacy Begg shares her advice for breathing new life into your WFH space.

Question: With my husband and I home full time due to COVID-19, we’ve found it a challenge to work in the same room. I’d like to move my office to the back room and make it a place I look forward to spending time in. How should I set it up?  Lorraine, Kingston, Ontario

Answer: This room has great space and, thanks to two windows, lots of natural light, like designer Francesca Albertazzi’s own workspace (below). I would start by painting the walls white to take advantage of the light. I recommend Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White or Chantilly Lace in a matte finish.

To add visual interest and a pop of color, wallpaper the wall you see upon entering the room in a bright and cheerful wallpaper like Farrow & Ball’s Wisteria.

(Source: Wisteria BP 2212 Wallpaper, $295/roll,

Next, head to your local big-box store for in-stock base cabinets and storage for files. Run them down the long wall and, if you’re ready to splurge, top the cabinets with a luxe, solid-surface material.

(Source: 5151 Empira White Surface, $80/sq.ft.,

Or, for a more budget-friendly option, try laminate.

(Source: Galant Storage Combination with Filing in White, $409,

Place a large table in the center of the room; run it lengthwise in the same direction as the cabinet wall. This will give you lots of room for your laptops and monitor.

(Source: Hamburg Solid Acacia Wood Dining Table, $449,

Add a rug underneath to warm up the space and provide some texture. How about a fun plaid? Don’t be afraid to mix your patterns! Consider carpet tiles: they’re a clever way to build a custom-size rug.

(Source: Scottish Sett Carpet Floor Tile in Linen, approx. $27/tile,

I love the classic ’60s Eames office chair in leather and, today, you can find great reproductions.

(Source: Shirel Office Chair in White, $89,

For more seating and a touch of contrast, add a couple of clean-lined guest chairs in black.

(Source: Bergamo Guest Chair in Black, $265,

A simple white barn-style fixture will illuminate your desk, as well as the eye-catching wallpaper.

(Source: Helena Pendant in White with Silver by Kuzco Lighting, $242,

Then, to finish the look, hang graphic black-framed art and pin boards above the run of cabinets.

(Source: Mid-Post IV Framed Print, $179,

You’re going to love your beautifully decorated home office — and, look out, your husband may want to join you there, too!

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

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Ask A Designer: How To Turn Your Bedroom Into A Nature-Inspired Retreat

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her easy and affordable tips for creating a relaxing respite.

Question: We’re looking to decorate our bedroom with a nature theme. What do you think of a leaf- or birch tree–print wallpaper, and what colors would you recommend?  Gen, Toronto

Answer: Wallpaper is a fantastic way to add interest in a room and address large expanses of wall. Take inspiration from this beautiful bedroom designed by Jennifer Morrison of Morrison Design House.

Here’s what I suggest to get a similar look:

Paper all the walls for an enveloping, cohesive feel. This forest-print paper by Lewis & Wood has a depth that will make your room feel more expansive, and the soothing gray and blue tones won’t overwhelm. (Wallpapering behind the bed will also help camouflage the small off-center window.)

(Source: Bosky Wallpaper in Blue Yonder, approx. $156/yd. (approx. $11.80/sq.ft.), available through Kravet Canada or

(Source: Albero Duck Egg Wallpaper, approx. $198/roll (approx. $3.50/sq.ft.),

Get a louvered shutter for the small window, and paint it the background color of your wallpaper (like Benjamin Moore’s Serenata) so it blends in to the wall. Dress up the large window with drapery that has an embroidered medallion motif. The small-scale pattern will work perfectly with tree-themed wall coverings.

(Source: Aubrey Blue Embroidered Curtain Panel, starting at $170,

Paint your ceiling and crown molding a pale blue pulled from the wallpaper and choose a bedding set in a similar tone.

(Source: Linen Duvet Covers in Mist, $330,

Add a couple of shams in a small-scale pattern…

(Source: Kiska Textiles Pillow Case in Filigree Sky/Indigo, $85,

…and layer on a cozy throw.

(Source: Nao Throw in Soft Grey, $30,

Update your nightstands with brighter, wood-toned versions. The legs will lift the furniture off the floor and make the space feel airier.

(Source: Kabbann Acacia Wood Bedside Table, $229,

Add textured, white ceramic lamps on the nightstands that play on a leaf pattern.

(Source: Textured Ceramic Table Lamp, $80,

Swap out your flush-mount light fixture (not visible) for a rattan pendant to bring in even more warmth.

(Source: Teresa Pendant Light, $102,

With these updates, you’ll have a serene bedroom retreat that’s perfect for relaxing in and catching some zzz’s.

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

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Ask A Designer: How To Turn Up The Color In Your Home

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her tips for refreshing your space while you’re staying in.

Many of you have written to us, asking how to bring color and cheer to your home while we’re all in them so much! Here are a few ideas using things you may already have on hand or are simple to get.

Style It

Drape a colorful scarf or throw over your headboard for an instant hit of color.

Make It

Create a decorative throw pillow cover from leftover project fabric, a scarf or an old but treasured piece of clothing. If you only have enough fabric for one side, use a plain fabric or an old tablecloth as the backing fabric. No sewing machine, no problem: hand stitching is fine for this small project.

Paint It

Paint can be one of the most affordable ways to transform your furniture or cabinets. You may have leftover paint from a previous project or be able to easily order it online. For minimal effort with maximum impact, paint the inside of a glass-fronted or open cabinet. Pick a bold hue for a pop of happy color, or opt for a subtle pastel for a quieter look.

Tip: Contrast mouldings are a fun way to bring color into a space. Because its sometimes difficult to figure out where to start and stop, go for a quick hit and just do the trim around a key window.

Author: Jennifer Koper


Alex Lukey (bedroom, cabinets); Donna Griffith (living room); Angus Fergusson (bathroom)


House & Home June 2020


Cameron MacNeil (bedroom); Christine Ralphs & Michelle Lloyd (living room); James Davie (bathroom); Katherine Newman (cabinets)

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Ask A Designer: How To Create A Sunny Dining Area

In this Ask A Designer column, Valérie Morisset shares her advice for sprucing up a tired dining area.

Question: I just bought a beautiful condo in Old Montreal. I’d like to have a dining area next to the window, a round table with four chairs and drapery panels instead of the blind. The previous owner had a television over the mantel, but I’d prefer a mirror for more modern Parisian style. Any suggestions?  Claudia, Montreal

Answer: You definitely have a great space to work with! To brighten up the room, start by painting your walls a soft, creamy white like Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White. Look for a tulip-shaped dining table with a black base.

(Source: Saarien Round Dining Table in Rosewood & Black, starting at $2,775,

For a bistro feel, surround it with four Hoffmann side chairs similar to the ones in the Inspiration room designed by Joel Bray (above).

(Source: Hoffmann Side Chair in Black, $530,

Your existing rug is very nice; try placing it parallel to the mantel. Consider installing a pendant fixture above the dining table to cast a warm glow. The Nolan pendant in vintage brass and dark bronze would add a contemporary touch.

(Source: Large Nolan Pendant by Arteriors Home, approx. $1,965,

And hanging a mirror in lieu of the television is a great idea. For a Parisian vibe, I suggest an oversized version with a polished brass frame. Have it hung so it rests on the mantel and looks like it’s leaning.

(Source: Todd Mirror in Polished Brass Metal, price available upon request,

French pinch-pleat panels in a gorgeous yellow silk would be an elegant upgrade from your current blind.

(Source: Ultrasuede Green Fabric in Canary, pricing available upon request,

Choose a black drapery rod with simple finials for a classic look.

(Source: Umbra Curtain Rod Set in Black Steel, $60,

As a final touch, set a clear vase on the table and fill it with seasonal branches.

(Source: Glass Bottle Vase, $60,

Enjoy your new dining area!

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

Author: Valérie Morisset


Maxime Desbiens (Portrait); Valerie Wilcox (Inspiration)


House & Home May 2020


Joel Bray (Inspiration); Research by Natacha Nasset

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Ask A Designer: How To Make The Most Of A Compact Family Room

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her tips for designing a functional gathering place.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: How do I lay out my narrow family room? Should I do built-ins on either side of the fireplace? I’ve already ordered a sofa and I’m looking for a coffee table — what else do I need to make the space great?  S.S., Toronto

Answer:  Since your family room is adjacent to the kitchen with its eating counter, and you have a separate dining room, I suggest you ditch your small round table and chairs. Then you’ll have room for a conversation area that includes two new armchairs in a fabric that complements your new sofa. They’ll look great placed side by side to the left of the fireplace, like in this sophisticated room designed by Workstead (below).

Thanks for sharing your choice of sofa (below); I love how sleek and modern it is.

(Source: Rye Channel Sofa, $2,015,

Opt for a round or square coffee table (instead of a rectangle) for the best fit.

(Source: Plateau Coffee Table, $1,169,

I recommend adding a larger rug that runs the length of the room. It should be big enough that the sofa and armchairs sit on it, but not so big that it interferes with the counter stools.

(Source: Serac Rug in Natural, Blue and Rust, starting at $314,

(Source: Arcade Ollie Chair in Camry Orange by Arren Williams, $1,099,

To keep the look airy, I would forgo built-ins. Instead, replace your current mirrored chest with a larger, more robust piece and move it over to the left side of the fireplace, and place a generously sized potted plant on the right side.

(Source: East Hampton Hall Chest in Cerused Linen, price available upon request,

For color and personality, lean a couple of pieces of art on the chest (they should stop short of the window above) and, to soften the look of the windows flanking the fireplace, consider having slouchy roman blinds made in natural linen.

(Source: Deia Linen in Sand by Alexa Hampton, price available upon request,

Enjoy your new family room!

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

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House & Home

Shaker style goes beyond utility for a pure perfection that stands the test of time.

The Backstory

The Shaker movement was started by Mother Ann Lee, a British expat who brought eight followers to New York in 1774. Outsiders called the sect “Shakers” for their ecstatic trembling and whirling during worship, yet its members were highly progressive, embracing gender equality, pacifism and technological advances.

They lived in communal families, sharing all possessions and profits, and shunning worldly goods. At a high point in 1840, there were 6,000 Shakers in the U.S. in 18 communities from Maine to Kentucky — since then, their numbers have dwindled to single digits.

Nonetheless, their legacy lives on. In preserved Shaker communities like Hancock Village, Massachusetts, and the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon in New York near Albany, there are many examples of their beautiful, functional and innovative designs. Shaker style’s elegant austerity has weathered the winds of change well, so renovators take note: this aesthetic is built to last, and there are many ways to incorporate it into your home.

Looks We Love

Shaker style living room with two area rugs, a gray couch and old-fashioned built-in cupboards.

In this living room, design firm Jersey Ice Cream Co. chose vintage pieces to underscore the room’s old-school built-in cupboards, an organization system appreciated by the Shakers.

This Swallowtail wallpaper from Memo Showroom mimics the wooden joint detail from oval Shaker boxes.

Shaker Style kitchen with white vertical wall paneling and floating shelves.

To the Shakers, craftsmanship was considered a form of worship. Designer Emily Netz chose the simplicity and sturdy construction of Shaker cabinets — identified by a recessed panel set in a face frame — for her own kitchen. “I drew a lot of inspiration from the 18th-century Shakers,” she says. “Their ethos was simplicity and functionality, and I’m always striving for more of both in my life.” A peg rail under the shelf and hanging basket are two other Shaker hallmarks.

Shaker-style living room with a simple side table and beige couch.

In this Notting Hill, London, home, designed by Colin King, a Shaker table proves its timeless appeal: the clean lines complement contemporary art and furnishings.

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Ask A Designer: How To Modernize A Kitchen That Is Stuck In The Past

ask a designer kitchen with a light palette and open shelves

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her tips for refreshing a kitchen with a light palette and open shelves.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: I’d like to spray my lower cabinets white and swap out my uppers for open shelving. How do I make this look good? K.S., Calgary

ask a designer kitchen before with dark cabinets

Answer: Having your cabinets painted a new color is an excellent way to update your kitchen! Opt for a bright white that will reflect light around the space. Replacing your upper cabinets with open shelving will definitely make your kitchen look airier, too. For a modern vibe, consider having your vent hood boxed in with drywall and painted to match your walls. Extending the box right to the ceiling will draw the eye up and create visual interest.

ask a designer kitchen with a light palette and open shelves

Similar to the Inspiration kitchen designed by Whitney Williams (above), install two floating wood shelves on either side of the vent hood. The top shelf should align with the bottom of the hood, with the second shelf 12 to 18 inches lower. Then, continue the shelving on the window wall, stopping just shy of the window frame. The key to styling your shelves is to choose items that are both good-looking and functional.

ask a designer speckled serving bowl

(Source: Speckle Serving Bowl 14″ (set of 2), $140,

ask a designer pitcher

(Source: Galiano Pitcher in Beige, $28,

For color, try leaning a piece of art on a shelf.

ask a designer artwork with pears

(Source: Art by Kate Schutz, price available upon request,

Next, swap out your backsplash for an off-white quartz or marble slab with veining. For a more affordable option, opt for ceramic or marble tiles. Install the slab or tile just below the height of the lowest shelf and then, behind the range, up to the vent hood.

ask a designer quartz slab

(Source: Chantilly Quartz Slab, price available upon request,

Consider adding two white and brass sconces on either side of the hood as decorative lighting. Additionally, you could have puck lights installed on the underside of the shelves to illuminate your work surfaces.

ask a designer sconce with brushed satin brass

(Source: Small Cypress Sconce in Brushed Satin Brass and Satin White, $408,

Finally, to bring in some warmth, replace your cabinet pulls with brass versions and add wooden counter stools at the peninsula.

ask a designer satin brass cabinet pull

(Source: Kent Collection Contemporary Cabinet Pull in Satin Brass by Richelieu, $11.50 each,

ask a designer counter stool

(Source: Kelley Counter Stool by Nuevo, $510,

These simple changes will give you the look of a bright, new kitchen without having to start from scratch!

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

The post <span class="title_highlight">Ask A Designer:</span> How To Modernize A Kitchen That Is Stuck In The Past appeared first on House & Home.

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This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of House & Home

Lynda Reeves portrait

You can probably imagine how many scouting shots of condos and newly renovated houses arrive in our office every month. Over the 30-plus years of looking at thousands of photos, patterns emerge that can’t be ignored. Some have been great, while others, not so much….

The problem is when a certain look reaches a tipping point, and we’re over it, having seen the exact same thing in so many renovations, there must be the inevitable backlash, right? For example, there was the “Ionic column trend.” Back in the ’80s, when walls were coming down on the ground floor of old Victorian houses, fat faux columns complete with Doric or Ionic plaster capitals were going up. They were all the rage for at least a few years. And then they weren’t.

Or how about the pass-through window between the kitchen and dining room? It was the first step to the open kitchen we now take for granted, and it’s one of the first things that gets ripped out in today’s renovations.

For a time, we were in love with front foyers and hallways. Long, narrow corridors from the front door through to the back of our houses were not only expected, they were necessary to avoid having to step from the entryway right into your living room.

Kitchens were prized for the number of overhead cabinets and the amount of storage that could be crammed into that huge island. The style was heavy wood with carved mouldings. Ugh!

I recall when the first condos hit the luxury end of the market. The best ones were built out with panelled walls, deep mouldings, English- or French-style mantels and miles of built-in bookcases and cabinets. Except for the views, you could easily be in a traditional mansion instead of a box in the sky.

Today, we’ve turned the tables. Old houses are being renovated to look like new condos with open-concept floor plans replacing traditional formal rooms for the loft look that is popular with both the luxury market and the more moderate midrange buyer.

outdoor-indoor living windows

Right now, I’m looking at scouts from Montreal of two different renos by two different designers, and I can hardly tell them apart. It’s the new “It” Look, and it’s a formula: wide open from the front door through to the backyard. White walls, one big room dominated by the open kitchen/living/dining area. Blond wood floors, sleek, airy cabinets and loads of light through big windows and NanaWalls, and plenty of room for dramatic art. That’s what we’re seeing over and over again.

I asked Maggie Lind of Chestnut Park Real Estate, whose clients tend to be affluent, downtown couples and families, if it’s true that most buyers are looking for the same thing. Most of all, I wanted the hit list of what you should do if you’re renovating and want to have the best chances to maximize your investment on a resale.

entryway with glass stairs

She agreed. “There is still the affluent buyer who appreciates a house with formal rooms, although they admit to rarely using them”she said. But, by far, most people want open-concept layouts. “Clean lines, open spaces, easy to come home to” was her description of the new dream home. I asked her about my theory that people must be sick of seeing the same look over and over again. Wrong, she told me. Apparently, there’s comfort in the familiar, and we’re far from tiring of a style that is prized by most buyers in urban markets across North America.

laundry room with textured tile

I asked Maggie to review my hit list of “wants,” and she added a few surprises that you should consider if you’re renovating. If you can check all these boxes in your renovation, you’ll have a prime house for resale.

  • Real hardwood floors over engineered wood floors. Light blond is fine, but dark floors and mid-tones are making a comeback.
  • Signature ranges. “People love their Wolf stoves,” says Maggie, but they also love complete suites of appliances including drawer microwaves, wall ovens and wine fridges by high-end brands such as Miele, Sharp, JennAir, LG, Thermador and Fisher & Paykel.
  • Exhibition kitchens with eating counters, always open to family rooms or dining areas.
  • “Wine storage walls” made of glass that line a dining room or kitchen, instead of basement wine cellars.
  • Mudrooms are a must, along with good laundry rooms.
  • Basement walkouts to a backyard or deck, especially for a family house.
  • Principal bedrooms with a walk-in closet, an ensuite bath with a freestanding tub, a separate shower and water closet and double sinks.
  • Gas fireplaces for ease.
  • An elevator corridor for a future elevator in houses that are more than two storeys. A working elevator is the best, but just having thought out the space and allowed for it is in itself a huge plus for a future buyer.
  • Sliding or folding glass doors that open up wide to the outdoors.

I also canvassed several agents who all agree on the single biggest-selling feature: high-end buyers want a house that is done. Great kitchens and bathrooms will sell a house. No one wants to have to do that work. If they did, they would most probably buy a “redo” that needs a total renovation.

And then there is that other factor: location, location, location…. But you already know that.

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In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for making an awkward living-dining room more polished.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: The angled wall in my living room has me stumped, and I’m not sure what to put on my bare walls. Could you help me with furniture and lighting? T.M., Dawson Creek, B.C.

ask a designer awkward living-dining-room

Answer: You’re on the right track with your deep wall color, but the bare walls make the room fall a bit flat. A wonderful way to add architectural interest and texture to a space is to invest in built-in bookcases. Consider having shallow, wraparound built-ins made for both long living room walls, as well as the angled wall. Paint the bookcases the same dark hue and fill the shelves with books, art and decorative objets. Be sure to vary the “fullness” of each shelf to avoid a look that’s packed too tight. Treating all three walls the same way will also help disguise the awkward angle.

ask a designer living-dining room

Next, update your sofa with a contemporary charcoal-colored version with subtle texture. The tone-on-tone effect of the sofa, walls and bookcases will create a snug, cocooned feeling. Consider choosing a sofa that’s slightly less deep than your current one to gain back some of the space that will be taken up by the new bookcases.

ask a designer sofa

(Source: Kimberly Sofa in Midnight by Distinctly Home, $1,599,

I recommend swapping out your love seat for two luxurious club chairs in a channelled black leather.

ask a designer chair

(Source: Schuler Club Chair, $999,

Then, add a smoked glass coffee table for a modern touch; the glass, although tinted, will make the table feel lighter.

ask a designer coffee table

(Source: Verre Square Coffee Table in Grey, $599,

A round wooden accent table placed between the club chairs and a nubby wool rug underfoot will bring in a touch of warmth.

ask a designer rug side table

(Source: Trill Round Wood Side Table, $499,

ask a designer rug

(Source: Hand-Woven Chunky Woolen Cable Rug in Off-White by NuLoom, $444,

In your adjoining dining area, replace the exposed bulb fixture with a more streamlined shaded version that will cast a softer glow. Its classic style will also temper the more modern pieces in the living area.

ask a designer light fixture

(Source: Piaf 39 Inch 4 Light Chandelier by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort, $1,467,

This mix of textures and styles will add plenty of interest to your space and give you a cozy but dynamic room, perfect for relaxing or entertaining.

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In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for making a welcoming first impression.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: I’d like to decorate my hand-me-down-filled entryway in a classic look. What would you suggest? Z.S., Vernon, B.C.

Before Photo of a dimly-lit entryway inside a home.

Answer: Start by brightening up the space with a warm white paint. Or, for texture and architectural interest, consider cladding your walls in white shiplap similar to this entry designed by Cloth & Kind (below). Next, remove the drapery from the side windows and apply frosted window film from a hardware store for a cleaner look that retains privacy.

After photo of an entryway inside a home with white shiplap walls and glass paneling around the front door.

For major impact that doesn’t cost the moon, paint your door and the surrounding window frames a soft black — like Benjamin Moore’s Black Beauty (2128 – 10). This will emphasize your tall ceilings and make the space feel grander. Replace your lighting with a pair of elegant sconces in a classic style.

Image of a sconce light

(Source: Vendome Single Sconce in Bronze by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort, $317,

Then, swap out your current chest for an inviting bench.

A brown wooden bench

(Source: Churchill Bench in Carob, $699,

Tucking a few baskets below will provide extra storage.

A round basket

(Source: Water Hyacinth Belly Basket in Natural by Distinctly Home, $28,

Above, between the sconces, opt for a round, modern mirror to bounce light and open up the area even more.

A circular mirror

(Source: Bryn Mirror, $385,

Underfoot, remove the smaller mats in favor of a large patterned rug — and be sure to have a doormat outside for wiping dirty feet!

A patterned rug

(Source: Turkish Sivas Rug in Brown and Cream, $721,

Finally, place a petite side table (perfect for keys and mail) either next to the bench or in front of the side window.

A small side table

(Source: Hand-Forged Martini Table in Aged Iron, $580,

With these changes, you’ll have a welcoming entry to greet family and friends — and it will look fresh for years to come.

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

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