It has been some time since I have featured misguided ‘improvements’ in my ‘addled architecture‘ series, so here’s one I spotted on a Montreal street on my last visit to this historically beautiful city. As I was wandering the city admiring some truly stunning architecture, I stopped for a few minutes on this one to linger and to ponder what on earth were they thinking?! I can’t quite determine if the ’80s applied metallic ‘frame’ ever had anything inside and if the intention was to cover completely the old details beneath or if the old facade was what it was trying to highlight rather than desecrate. Whatever the intent, on the surface it appears to be definitely misguided.
Buffalo, NY is home to some stunning historic architecture including the gorgeous and enormous city hall, considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco in America.
I highly recommend a jaunt to downtown Buffalo to visit this gem (read my post about my visit for a pictorial tantalizing teaser), then be sure to wander the city blocks around the edifice for more gorgeous examples of my favourite period in design.
Update: plans to bring the costumes of the wildly popular Downton Abbey series to Toronto’s Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens (as noted in my recent post about this beautiful home) have become a reality!
From March 11 to April 13, 2014, Spadina Museum is pleased to host the major exhibit ’Costumes of Downton Abbey’ featuring outfits from the production, a selection of dresses and accessories from the City of Toronto collection of the same era, and Downton Abbey-themed tours of the restored house. Already proving to be popular with Downton fans in Toronto, special ‘exhibit, tour, and afternoon tea’ tickets are already sold out, with exhibit/tour-only tickets going fast as well.
My home always seems so glum after the Christmas decorations are done, so the last few winters I’ve transitioned through the season by keeping a bit up, swapping out the more festive pieces for more seasonal accoutrements. Case in point on my fireplace mantel: the vintage glass Christmas balls went in the cupboard in favour of foraged pine cones.
I don’t normally decorate for Valentine’s Day, but this year a trip to Dollarama inspired this cheery DIY heart bunting project that I added to the mix. Perhaps the descriptor project is a little inappropriate and lofty as it was truly straight-forward garland to make – simply stringing a ribbon through the lacy bits of the hearts. And inexpensive – the pack of pink, white, and red foam hearts was $2 and the spool of brown grosgrain ribbon was a dollar.
The biggest investment of time came when I realized, upon opening the package, that only the heart at the top of the stack had all the tracery punched through, leaving me to do the rest by hand one evening – made easier and rather therapeutic with a glass of red wine in hand and a chick-flick on the tube.
I have always loved having houseplants for the greenery and life they add to a space. And for someone who appreciates plants, houseplants make a lovely hostess gift that keeps on giving year after year.
Take these specimens, for instance, that I received about nine years ago, which still bring me joy and remind me of the friends who gave them to me. The green leafy number is an easy care plant, so easy that I don’t even know the name of it. I basically water it each week and repot it when it starts to grow too large.
The orchid is what I consider another easy-care plant – I’m surprised to hear from others that they think otherwise and are equally surprised that I’ve kept it growing and flowering so long. Flowering only once a year (but for months at time), many I know simply discard the plant once the flowers are gone after the first year, losing patience to wait out the 365 days until it blooms again.
All I’ve done to care for it is to water it weekly, adding only a standard liquid house plant fertilizer once a month (but never when it is flowering), making sure to pour the water between the plastic inner pot and the decorative outer pot so it waters slowly from the bottom up. I’ve repotted it once in the nine years using orchid potting mix, and popping it into a white IKEA KARDEMUMMA plant pot. Each year I let the blooms die off naturally and only cut the stem down if it dies off on its own. If the stem stays green, I leave it alone.
Truly I find this plant is worth the yearly wait for the stupendous show of blooms it presents each winter (this year I got two full stems of blooms for the first time ever!), offering a little bit of the tropics in the dead of winter. Which reminds me, I’m overdue for a bigger hit of the tropics – without leaving Toronto, with a visit to the greenhouse at Allan Gardens, to breath in the humid air to help get through this coldest winter in years.
This cold weather has many of us holed up in our homes, spending much time staring at those four walls and perhaps taking stock of our decor. Has mid-winter cabin fever caused you to have a hate-on for your home decor? If so, it’s worth venturing outside into the cold to head down to the 2014 instalment of the Interior Design Show (on at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre until Sunday January 26), for some refreshing ideas for your spaces.
Wandering the show floor, I spotted furniture, finishes, fixtures, and booth designs that feature a lot of colour, along with unique use of materials and quite a few nods to vintage with a contemporary touch.
A colourful display of paint ‘swatches’ at Farrow & Ball.
A mix of new and vintage by MHouse Inc. with furniture from Avenue Road.
Colourful Feltro shapes become building blocks with the help of imbedded magnets.
This drop in place prefab home by Altius RSA with a vintage roof line starts at under $200 per square foot. Inside, check out the small appliances by Panasonic that are uniquely modern in shape with an interesting added splash of colour.
The Avani kitchen (a new brand by Aya Kitchens), is bold on colour and practical on design. The white island slides in and out – helpful for maximizing small spaces.
Beauti-Tone paints topped their booth with a creative display created from colourfully dipped paint sticks.
Ikea shows how blending classic favourites with their modern products helps to create a harmonious, welcoming space.
Korhani has the most intriguing and entertaining booth at the show, with mannequins dressed in clothing made from colourful rugs and brought to life with somewhat spooky, animated, video faces.
Para Paints booth is a colourful cocoon created with oversized, arching paint chips.
Urban Barn gets witty with music and colour.
Torlys presents a bright pink new booth design along with a new hardwood, wide-plank, flooring line.
On first glance these colourful Mettro tiles look authentically vintage – a closer look reveals that the patterns are photos of old tiles applied to new.
As we muddle through the thick of this cold Canadian winter, it’s hard to believe that this photo of a handy bunch was taken only a few months ago on a sunny September afternoon when I, along with a handful of other bloggers, were invited on set to chat with the judges and host of Canada’s Handyman Challenge.
Being a somewhat handy gal, it’s surprising that I’ve only previously caught a few episodes of Canada’s Handyman Challenge in past seasons. And being a handy-woman, I have to admit I am a bit hung-up on the gender-specific title. But after a visit to the set to see the impressive handy-work of the show’s contestants, I am looking forward to an immersion this season, with the first episode airing tomorrow,Tuesday January 21, 2014 on HGTV Canada at 10pm ET/PT.
Although I took many more photos of the outdoor set at an interesting abandoned industrial factory on the outskirts of downtown Toronto, none can be revealed until after the end of this season, as we visited during the final competition and were sworn to secrecy.
However, the entertaining conversation with the personable judges Bryan Baeumler, Scott McGillivray, and Paul Lafrance (they are truly as much fun in person as they are on the tube), along with show host Jenn Robertson and guest judge Mike Holmes, provided revealing insights on contestants who have or don’t have what it takes, translating into insights for those of us who are (or think we are) handy around our own homes. Bryan expressed that 80% of home building is an art and he feels that the skill lacking the most for DIYers is common sense along with a planning, encouraging us to stop and think before acting. For our projects’ and safety’s sake. Scott said that those lacking a real passion are generally eliminated from the show’s competition first, while Paul noted that the show highlights that some trying-to-be-handy-persons lack an essential skill - a basic education in and knowledge of math.
They all agree however, that even though they are seasoned professionals even they discover new ways of doing things through the show and are re-inspired in their own work by the contestants and their ideas and approaches. While there is currently a real lack of skilled trades in Canada, the hosts are encouraged that the artisan is slowly making a comeback, with shows like Canada’s Handyman Challenge showcasing, supporting, and encouraging the true talent that is out there, coast-to-coast.
This is the impression that many may have of downtown Buffalo – cold, desolate, deserted.
But as regular readers of mine know, I appreciate Buffalo, NY for more than the cross-border shopping it offers those of us living in Southern Ontario. As detailed in my other posts extolling Buffalo’s collection of Frank Lloyd Wright homes and structures, stunning Art Deco city hall, and the under-restoration Central Terminal train station, illustrating just a few of the many beautiful landmarks, Buffalo is truly an exceptional city for architecture. The Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume recently noted the same, as part of a large special section in the December 2013 edition of the paper that highlighted the highlights of this truly beautiful city.
While I have toured the city hall, I hadn’t as yet taken a good wander through the rest of Buffalo’s downtown core. But on one recent wintry and quiet Sunday morning I did just that. Here are just a few as a sampling of the numerous photos I took as I lapped up the beauty of blocks of historic edifices, from the early 19th century into the mid-20th century. I loosely followed a walking tour provided in a handy online brochure or by ordering a printed version from Visit Buffalo, which provides a little bit of history about many of these stunners.
While January seems to traditionally be a time of reorganization in one’s life and home, and cleaning is often left to the spring, being cooped up over this already long and cold winter has me paying attention the deep cleaning that needs to be done around my home that I can generally ignore.
Before the holidays I took to cleaning my stainless steel appliances with baby oil. I find this unusual ‘cleaner’ works well, but tweeted out an inquiry as to stainless steel polish of choice amongst tweeps. Storefront Life responded with ‘Weiman Cleaner/Polish and a soft rag’. Perhaps I have been living under a dirty rock, as I had not ever heard of this north of 70-year-old manufacturer of home cleaning products.
Shortly after I was browsing the cleaner aisle at a Walmart store when I happened across a number of Weiman products, including their Glass Cooktop Cleaner and Scrubbing Pads ($5.98 and $2.48). Now I love my glass top stove for ease of immediate clean up of spills and boil-overs, and had been using Vileda’s Glass Ceramic Scrunge pads with somewhat satisfactory results. But no matter how much I scrubbed, and I scrubbed hard, I could never completely remove the grime that would build up around the elements. And so I expected Weiman’s cleaner and pads to perform similarly (thus no before shot) but I am so pleasantly surprised with how easily and with little effort all the grime is removed with this wonder!
Then I got thinking – maybe there are other applications for this cleaner, on other grimy glass. Lo and behold, with a little product rubbed on and off with a paper towel it works like a charm on removing soot from glass candle holders! I had previously tried other cleaners and home remedies, and a lot of elbow grease in the past, with no luck. Again, with this product a clean surface comes almost effortlessly! And while the manufacturer does not state this as a use for this product, I deduced that since it is designed for use on a surface with heat, as long as the cleaner is fully removed from the surface of the glass of the candle holder, there should be no issue. Just clean glass!
With a new year comes the anticipation of things to come along with new starts. Including the long-awaited start of the fourth season of Downton Abbey for North American audiences, finally arriving with the broadcast of the season’s first episode this coming Sunday January 5th at 9pm ET on PBS.
When it comes to envisioning and visiting a local setting and social structure similar to the era portrayed in this popular British television series, many Torontonians may automatically think of Casa Loma, while its smaller neighbour, Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens may not immediately come to mind. I am guilty of that – in all my years living in Toronto I had yet to visit Spadina House until a few months ago when I finally explored this gem.
Built in 1866, renovated and expanded in 1898 and 1913, and recently re-restored to the period of the 1920s and 1930s, a tour of the house provides a glimpse into the life of the upper middle class Austin family and this opulent time.
Located at 285 Spadina Avenue and operated by the City of Toronto, this historic house illustrates the evolution of styles from mid-Victorian to 1930s Colonial Revival and includes items from both the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements, as well as items in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The rooms contain furniture purchased by the family, much of it made in Toronto.
While obviously much smaller than Highclere Castle (the setting for Downton Abbey), there was a staff that kept Spadina House operating in good order including two maids, a cook, a chauffeur, a gardener, a part-time laundress-washer, and a seamstress. The call-bells in the kitchen remain.
The top floor (added in renovations to provide a calm and healing space for an ailing Austin family son) holds the servants quarters, which are presently open for viewing. The other side of the floor is set to open to the public for the first time ever sometime in 2014, and includes a beautiful 180 degree glass bay seating area only visible from exterior currently.
The basement excavations reveal foundations and windows from previous construction at the site.
The grounds are worth a wander too, which include extensive flower and vegetable beds, an orchard, and grape vines, with some of the produce available for purchase at local farmer’s markets in season.
Beyond visiting the beauty of this elegant home and gardens, Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens offers numerous special tours, programs, and lectures, with plans to bring an exhibit of the upstairs and downstairs costumes of the Downton Abbey series to the house sometime soon.