Keep Your Fork, Duke…

…there’s pie.


Okay, maybe there isn’t pie, but there is a new dining room at our house.
Okay, maybe there isn’t a whole new dining room, but the one we do have has had a facelift. Thing is, the facelift has taught me, among other things, Important Lessons On How To Never Become a Famous Blogger.
Namely, paint your rooms in dark colours that, while they make your heart sing, do not enable the taking of decent photos. Looks like the ABM girls have nothing to fear from me. ūüėČ

Our dining room here at Delovely HQ is in the middle of the main floor. Since Delovely HQ is a semi-detached house, built in the 1920s, the centre room has no windows of its own. It did, however, have French doors at both ends, which I loved. M, on the other hand, did not. And so I sacrificed and gave in when he said he wanted to take them down. I am still sad to have lost them, but I must agree with him that getting rid of them has opened up the flow of the main floor in a very pleasing way, one that is sure to increase once we build our deck off the back of the house and we can swan right out onto said deck, cocktails in hand…
I digress.


You may remember that I made the mistake of painting the dining room white, in an attempt to be all “oh, look at me and my all-white house full of airy lightness!” Except that the white paint was boooooooring and made the room look pokey and small and, weirdly, even darker than it did before. Hm.

Here is how we fixed it:

1. I repainted the walls in a colour that makes me swoon with joy every time I see it– Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball is a dark navy with a teal-y undertone. It’s so dark it’s nearly black. Totally my speed.

2. M agreed to let me have our outdated dining room furniture painted. We had it done by a pro and ended up with a brand-new-looking set for a fraction of the cost of buying new. I had the table painted in Great White , three chairs done in All White, two in Blue Ground and three in Stiffkey Blue. The multi-coloured chairs not only help to tie in the colours of the rug, but also to keep the room looking current and fresh.


3. We invested in the Slip Bench from Crate and Barrel to add some interest to the seating. Getting rid of the French doors meant that we were able to shift the table and chairs to along the party wall, leaving more space to walk through the room and more space to access the china cabinet than we had when things were centred.

4. We bought grown-up lights. I chose the Capiz Orb Pendants from West Elm in the small and medium size and had M wire me up two Plog-it¬†cords in pale grey. We staggered the height and the alignment of the globes over the table, for interest’s sake. Bonus feature: we didn’t have to fuss about lining up the ceiling hooks from which they are swagged (our electrical box is centred in the room, so we had to pick swag-able lights). I LOVE these lights. I had M put them on a dimmer so they just glow like beautiful moons or lanterns over the dinner table.


5. I re-purposed the chalkboard I made for our kitchen several years back and hung it horizontally over the back of the bench. I added a few mirrors– the vintage, gold-framed one was smashed & the frame was broken when I got it and I finally got around to having the glass replaced & the frame repaired. It cost less than $40! It would have been a bit more to get the antiqued glass I really wanted, but I was in a rush and didn’t have time to wait for the antiqued glass to come in on special order.


6. I added two vintage-inspired bevelled mirrors I found at Target for about $25 a piece, and the antique swing-arm sconces I picked up at The Door Store in the spring. I have a few ideas of bits I’d like to add to the wall, but for now it’s fine.


What is really funny (now ) about the dining room facelift is, like our office facelift and our TV room gallery walls, it just sort of happened, snowballing out of the Misguided White Walls Fiasco. Yet, also like the office & the TV room, it is now one of my favourite rooms/projects in the house.
I wish you could all come over and see it in person– I’m a lousy cook, but my dining room looks pretty enough to eat!



Murphy’s Law

At long last, the dressing room is worthy of the title “Almost Finished!”

There is still some work to be done, but it has reached a state where it works for both its intended purposes, as a closet/dressing room and as a guest bedroom.


We got rid of our antique bedstead ūüė¶ in favour of a more practical, space-saving Murphy bed. Which I LOVE! I had the front of it wallpapered in Fresco, by the oh-so-brilliant Timorous Beasties. I will mount my painting of Wallis Simpson onto the front of the bed so that it stays put, even when we pull the bed down for guests; for now she is comfortable just leaning there. The bench (to be painted navy, once spring is here and I can use my paint sprayer again), serves as handy perch for me, but it is very light and easily moved to the side to become a night table for guests. The rug is a Homesense find; I like the way the circles echo the polka dots in the wallpaper.


The lacy pendants you have seen before– BMad helped me make them. Okay, he made them, I just bossed him around. Thanks, BMad! I used the good ol’ Ikea hack approach to hang them– those are shelf brackets, mounted to the sides of the Murphy bed. The installation caused my honey to swear a lot, but they are perfect– the bed opens and just skims the pendants without whacking into them. Because the switches are on the pendant cords, I got a multi-channel remote light switch (the kind designed to be used with Christmas tree lights– get them now, while they are in stock!) so that our guests (and I) don’t have to crawl into the closets to turn the lights on and off. I hide the ugly remote in a pretty lacquer box I got in the clearance section at West Elm.


I opted to hang curtains in front of the closets on either side of the bed because I wanted to minimize the visual distraction of all my clothes. It also means I can use the floor space beneath the clothing racks for storage, too. The bed linens for the guest bed are in the trunk. I plan to build shelves to run along the top of each closet space & over the rack of vintage frocks on the opposite side so I can keep things up there, too.


My vintage clothes are along the Wall o’ Shoes where I can feel happy every time I look at them. I think vintage clothes are works of art– the craftsmanship in them is far superior to most of what we have access to nowadays– so I want them to be visible, thus no curtains. The shoes are stored in Billy bookcases with doors; I added cute handles I picked up in London at Zara Home. If you have feet bigger than a size 7-7.5, you’d have to store your shoes facing sideways, but my size 7s fit perfectly. Ah, serendipity.


My mum slept in the nearly-finished guest room last night and she said she felt like she was sleeping in a pretty tent, with all the canvas curtains and the “nook” of the Murphy bed to keep it cozy.


The living room “freshen up” project is now finished. The room had been done by a decorator in the 80s and was ready for a facelift. The homeowners are in their 70s and have very traditional tastes and did not want to spend an enormous amount of money, so the project really was just to update via new upholstery, paint and lamps. There was no budget to replace the upholstery on the oversized salmon-pink chair or the drapes in the same hue, so we had to work around those two elements.

The paint on the wall is a slightly more grey-green version of the Wedgwood blue that was already there. The rest of the transformation comes thanks to tailored, modern upholstery. The blue linen allows the lovely line of the back of the sofa to take centre stage; I had wanted to have one single cushion made for the seat of the sofa, to make it more modern and more inviting, but the upholsterer talked the homeowner out of it, alas. Luckily she followed instructions on the wing-back chairs, whose crisp ticking suits their tailored shape to a T.

The clear glass lamps bring a bit of contemporary sparkle to the room; I particularly love the ikat lampshade & the covered cord of the lamp on the console.

In the end, the new fabrics and a slight switch in paint colour make a big difference. The room looks fresh and updated, but still traditional and suited to the homeowners’ aesthetic.

Desk Space Rejuvenation

Here it is!

I am so pleased with the result; every time I see my “new” desk space, I feel calm and serene and better able to cope with the stress of my workplace. I have even inspired a colleague or two to do the same to their desk areas!

This is a “before” shot– I borrowed my colleague’s space for the photo, but my desk space looked kinda similar before the transformation. (Mine was a bit neater, but not by much.. )

These photos were taken with ALL the lights on in the office– you can see why a desk lamp is a necessity: the place is black as pitch.

Because of the darkness issue, I chose light, bright, fresh colours.

1. Despite studies that say women who post personal photos in their offices do not advance in their careers, I need the reminders of my life outside work. Also, I am as high up the food chain as I ever hope to be! I tarted up the frames with a bit of washi tape and some awesome glitter tape.

2. Cute little storage containers are there with the goal of inspiring me to stay organized. They are measuring cups and coffee/espresso cups, but I like the idea of using them to corral office supplies.

3. A clear blotter with a pretty piece of Lily Ashbury Tradewinds fabric underneath brightens up the desk surface. So much nicer than my old black blotter and easy to switch up  if I want a new colour scheme.

4. My Poketo day timer is cute on the inside, but needed some zhuszh on the outside– enter the glitter tape!

5. I covered my bulletin board with more Lily Ashbury Tradewinds fabric; this one is called Jaipur. You could just as easily use wallpaper or any kind of pretty paper. I attached it with thumbtacks, so it is also easily switched.

6. A couple of whimsical touches– the ubiquitous “Keep Calm” and a little cat bum and tail to hang my keys. I have a cheeky sense of humour, so why shouldn’t my work space?

7. Pretty notepads and washi tape, along with some cute ink stamps will bring me cheer all year long and also add a personal touch.

8. A white file stack replaces the old black one and lightens up the space. It also serves as a handy surface to keep memos with some custom made magnets.

9. A modern desk lamp sheds crucial light and contrasts with the busy prints and bright colours, to keep the whole look modern and crisp.

Washi tape– it’s everywhere, and for good reason. It looks so pretty and is so darned easy to use and so inspiring; I just want to cover everything in it!

Pretty in Pink

Here is the (mostly) finished dining room.¬†¬†I wanted the space to be welcoming and contemporary, without being trendy, but to also respect my mum’s love of traditional style. I think the result is crisp and modern, feminine without being frilly, classic without being stuffy. I think part of why it works is that it is a small room that is not afraid to make a big, bold, colourful statement.

Design Brief:
Re-use all the (mismatched, outdated) furniture and the lovely chandelier. Replace the carpet. EDIT the very full storage cabinets and keep only the truly beautiful, useful items. Replace the skinny faux curtains with functioning ones, to allow for privacy in the evening. Take the room from dark, tired and dated to fresh, modern, feminine and bright.

We found the gorgeous stripe with the cherry branch print (I used it to make the statement curtains) and that drove our colour palette; all the colours in the room were drawn from the fabric. The walls are a smoky, lavender/grey, the ceiling is pale lilac under a wash of cream-coloured pearlescence, inspired by the ceilings of old Parisian bistros; the effect adds coziness in the evenings & a mellow warmth during the day, counterbalancing the cool colour of the walls. The wool carpet is a darker shade of the wall colour. The carpet and paint on the furniture, the two biggest investments in the room, are neutral colours, so my mum can change the fabric on the windows and the chairs in the future.

We updated my great-grandmother’s dining room suite with a coat of ¬†warm cream spray-lacquer, opting for a pale lilac drawn from the cherry branch striped fabric for the inside of the hutch. Tip: if your painter tries to talk you out of something unusual, stick to your guns! I knew the lilac interior would make my mum’s (ruthlessly edited) collection of dishes and beloved figurines look AMAZING, so I had to really¬†insist¬†to the painter that I was right about it and please-and-thank-you could he just¬†do¬†it? ¬†Rather than replace the hard-to-fit hardware, we just painted it in the same pale lilac, too!

The sideboard was a Goodwill find and getting our (actually very wonderful) painter to lacquer it in a high-gloss hot pink also took some convincing. It looks pretty great, though, right? I think it adds that oh-so-necessary sense of humour and fun to the room. Formal dining rooms can be so, well, formal.

The mosaic mirror adds sparkle and reflects light from the wall of windows. It also makes the room seem bigger and reflects the pretty contents of the hutch, so that diners on both sides of the table can see them.

More photos (including MUCH BETTER “before” pictures!) over here.

Le Big Reveal

Design Brief:
Unify a jumble of comfy, much-loved bits of furniture,
acquired over time and representing a mixture of styles and eras.

Use the homeowner’s existing pieces, recycling as much as possible
in order to keep room in the budget for her must-haves:

an area rug


So, without further ado, here it is!

It was the hottest week of the year, but that did not stop me from using the awesome paint sprayer to unify the wicker furniture with a coat of charcoal grey. The 1920s settee, chair and table, in particular, look AMAZING in this new, dark colour.

The rug, from West Elm, brings a hit of contemporary design into the space, to keep it from feeling too girly or too theme-y. We wanted to keep the cottage vibe of the room but with a modern edge.

The Big Stuff made the seat cushions (and they did an excellent job, as usual!) in the gorgeous yellow buffalo gingham check that was our starting point. Once the client saw that fabric, the whole room just fell into place; we let the fabric dictate the rest of the palette. ¬†The grey and creme floral and all the ribbons and trims came from Designer Fabric Outlet, and the polka dots were a twin duvet set from Ikea–thanks to my trusty shears and sewing machine, it is now the upholstery on two of the ¬†dining chairs and has also been transformed into cushions, including some reversible ones, for the rest of the seating. We drew the yellow from the check out to paint a curvy little chair and placed it in the corner, with a view of the garden.

Curtains add some privacy and can be drawn in the evening if it gets cool. The tea-towelling I used along the border of each panel picks up on the yellow and evokes a bit of the south of France at the same time.

Rewiring an old, broken lamp and giving it a coat of the same yellow as the chair brought it back to life. ¬†The other lamp belonged to the client’s mother and sported an antique gold finish; a quick coat of charcoal grey and it was ready to provide some much-needed light for reading in the evenings. I recovered both lampshades and added whimsical oversized pom pom trim in charcoal grey, including a pom on each finial! I think every room needs a touch of something¬†to make you smile, don’t you? Tired of the pom poms in a few years?
No worries– some neutral linen shades are an easy and inexpensive update.

To see more, head over here.