The Drama of Black

So this is a bit of a selfish post.  My husband was being forced to watch one of my (many) PVR’d design shows not long ago and when it came to the reveal, he really didn’t like the black walls the designer had chosen to create and proceeded to tell me that he didn’t like black walls, period.  I was vociferously opposed to his view as I had been quietly harbouring dreams of painting some black walls in whichever new place we may be moving to in the near future.  He said absolutely not, he just doesn’t like them.  I said I would show him some fabulous rooms with black walls and convert him to a hip, black wall-lover.  So this post is really for him.  With some stuff for you thrown in there too!

What I love about black is that it is so dramatic and sophisticated.  It can instantly add strength to a space and it is classic.  Just think about all those LBDs us gals have been wearing for decades.  The black in this room is softened by the use of the natural materials in the blinds and the basket and by pairing it with a warm wood desk.



This space is just so glamorous with the contrasting black and white decor and the use of timeless furniture pieces.  Really nicely modernised with the cowhide zebra stripe rug and the slipcovered chair.

glamourous Black Walls


This black entranceway designed by Kelly Wearstler allows all the graphic patterns and metallic finishes to shine while creating a striking backdrop.

kelly wearstler black entrance hall


Black absorbs light, so black walls work really well in a space that receives a good amount of natural light. Though if you are aiming to create a warm, cave-like feel, black walls will make a calming choice.  In her book All About Colour, colour guru Janice Lindsay identifies that ‘black can feel like a security blanket, private and safe.’ Paint with a sheen to it will help move the light around the room, whereas a matte paint finish will fully absorb the light.  Matte paint will also hide more imperfections in the wall than a glossy finish will.

This space feels a bit cave-like to me.  Enveloping and cozy and inviting and what a beautiful creative space it would be to work in!

black office


Here’s another warm and inviting space with very saturated hues mixed into the black room.

saturated red chair with black walls & fireplace


This inviting black and white kitchen was posted by House Beautiful nearly 10 years ago and because of it’s ageless design and colour scheme it is still looking current.  To update this kitchen in the future, all you will likely need to do is change the pendant lights and a few accessories.

black & white kitchen


Here is another classic kitchen design, but with a modern black ceiling.  There is much talk about what a black ceiling will do to a space.  I feel like it makes the ceiling disappear and therefore makes it seem much higher.  Others say the opposite, that it can bring the ceiling in and make the space feel more enclosed.  What do you think?

white kitchen with black ceiling


Of course we all have black workhorses in our wardrobes – those outfits or pieces we turn to time and again because they work with everything.  I love this classic Chanel inspired boucle jacket paired with an edgy pair of leather skinnies and open toed boots.  Very chic.

All Black Outfit


Model Karlie Kloss puts a spin on the classic black pants and white top by reversing it and wearing it for winter.

black top white pants winter


How pretty is this elegant black party dress with the crushed velvet bodice and tulle skirt? It could easily have come out of the 1950s and would be a perfect Christmas or New Years party dress.

Classic black dress


Marilyn Monroe wears a great little black dress here that is still fashionable today.  And aren’t those seams sexy?

marilyn monroe little black dress

via pinterest

So what do you think about dramatic black?  Will it make the transition from your wardrobe and onto your ceiling or walls? Will it become as classic as it has in our wardrobes?

What’s the Difference Between Turquoise & Teal

Some friends and I were talking about colour the other day and all of a sudden I realised that we weren’t necessarily talking about the same colour.  Turquoise and teal seemed to be referred to interchangeably.

Since I’ve long loved both colours (though I hold a special kind of obsession for anything turquoise!), I thought it was a good excuse to dive into a turquoise & teal design world and so I began a little research to resolve the difference between the two hues. (Besides, the paper company GF Smith recently announced that Marrs Green, a very rich teal colour, is the ‘world’s favourite colour” after conducting an international online survey, so it’s good to know what everyone is loving so much!)

The Camgridge Dictionary defines teal as ‘a dark greenish-blue colour’, which, for any trivia buffs out there, I learned on wikipedia is named after the deep green-blue found around the eye of the common teal duck.

How gorgeous is this rich teal velvet sofa with that patterned wallpaper in the same hue? Hits of acid yellow and red punch up the colour scheme.

teal velvet sofa


I love this classic entranceway in Paris with its dramatic teal door.

Paris door teal


This is a beautiful teal wall colour paired with a more true-blue sofa, which helps create a layered feel. This pic also illustrates how teal can work with many other colours. And oooh that llama!

teal velvet sofa & teal walls


This floral print wallpaper with its warm teal background is the perfect way to add some life to a small powder room.

teal floral wallpaper in powder room


Teal vs Turquoise

Colour Experts Pantone describe turquoise (Pantone 15-5519 colour of the year in 2010) as ‘combining the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green’. This colour is still going strong in its popularity.  It’s named after the turquoise stone often worn as jewelry.

This is such a pretty turquoise and white kitchen, which looks amazing with those hexagonal terra cotta floor tiles.  Turquoise with corals and reds is such a great, welcoming colour combination. The hint of industrial in the stools and cement countertops keeps it feeling modern.

turquoise kitchen


I feel like this dining room is channeling a little design icon Dorothy Draper with the use of the ornate, oversized white mirror, the large leaves and the cheerful turquoise walls and seat cushions.

turquoise dining room


This is a happy little spot in a house with a turquoise cushion on the old rustic bench. This works particularly well because the turquoise is repeated in the artwork.

turquoise bench-1


I’m in love with Kay’s pretty turquoise front door that she shares on her Instagram page @onceupona1912. It’s such a lovely colour to greet people with (Sherwin Williams Waterscape) and it looks great styled with the purple & pink flowers.

turquoise door onceupona1912


Teal appeared on the red carpet a few years ago, which is why we are seeing its increased popularity in decor.  It seems to have some longevity in fashion though, perhaps because it is a universally flattering colour.  I love this teal print dress that Sarah Jessica Parker is wearing.  It is again paired with acid yellow, which really brightens it up.

Sarah Jessica Parker in teal dress


This is a well put together outfit with the teal shirt dress and brown leather accessories.

teal tunic long boots outfit


This teal jacket & blouse look so fresh paired with white pants.

teal jacket, teal blouse with white pants


While I think this sweater comes more under the category of mint, it is in the turquoise family and the light shade looks so good paired with a pinky-beige jacket and white jeans.

mint pullover white jeans


I love this icy combination of the turquoise knit winter coat with the white pants & blouse.  So pretty.

turquoise coat with white pants

So are you a teal lover or a turquoise gal? I have to say I really love both and they are such versatile colours that will go with just about any other colour in the spectrum.  Since they are flattering on every skin tone, I see their popularity lasting a long time. What about you?



Design Project Miri, Malaysia

What a fun project to be a part of at the Piasau Boat Club in Miri, Malaysia!  A regular hangout for locals and expats, the Boat Club is a unique place on the Miri landscape.  Its beautiful sunset views, great outdoor children’s play area, water access and water sports facilities are all part of its draw.  While all these things are enjoyable, the restaurant and bar were badly in need of an update.




After Photo by Patrycja Ryba




After Photo by Patrycja Ryba

The Club called out for an interior that reflected its landscape – something bright and beachy.  Fantastic contractor Simon Clarke-Ward put the  bar together, including the facing with reclaimed wood, which adds great texture to the space.



The space was previously dark and felt heavy. It was definitely outdated with all the dark wooden furnishings and orange floor tiles.


After Photo by Patrycja Ryba

The space wanted to feel more open and cohesive, to be welcoming.  With a coat of warm white paint and new floor tile, the bar and dining room are now visually linked.  The white-washed tables add a hint of the beach, while the wide blue stripes are a nod to the nautical.  Above, I included a member’s gallery wall containing photos from parties and events held over the years, which can be regularly rotated to showcase new pictures.



A gloomy and dated children’s play area was located in a prime piece of real estate in the club.


After Photo by Patrycja Ryba

Now this is an inviting social spot in which a group can enjoy a meal and a few drinks with friends and family.


Photo by Patrycja Ryba

The beautiful mosaic above was created by Joyce Redpath, one of the Club’s members.




After Photo by Patrycja Ryba




After Photo by Patrycja Ryba

Now a much brighter and open space, this is an inviting part of the restaurant overlooking the water.




After Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba


Photo by Patrycja Ryba

The Piasau Boat Club is now a cheerful and welcoming place.  Its unique position at the Miri seaside is enhanced by its warm and inviting interior.  It’s a special place in which to enjoy a meal, a few drinks and one of the many beautiful sunsets.



Cecil the Lion Hoopla. Long May it Last!

I eat meat.  I wear leather.  I even sell handbags made from African game skins  (these are skins which come from animals that are also used for their meat, by the way).  I know and love plenty of vegetarians, but I also know and love people who hunt.  They enjoy it and I’m ok with it.  I could never do it myself, but I’m ok with it.  As long as they use the meat of the animals they are hunting. 

I, like many hundreds of thousands of other people apparently, am not ok with the whole trophy hunting scenerio.

I will never understand the desire to kill an animal for the sole purpose of decorating a home with it’s head.  Or taking a smiling photo next to its carcass.  It’s creepy, for one thing, to have animal heads in your home.  And doubly creepy to have a photo taken next to an animal’s carcass.  I wonder why people do it.  And much as I’ve tried to come to terms with it, I will never understand a person who can kill an animal for the sake of killing. I find the idea of trophy hunting abominable.

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

My initial reaction to Cecil’s death was one of anger and sadness.  I wanted the comfortable rich dentist to pay with the shut down of his business and was happy he was being shamed by the world.

But the truth is trophy hunting has been going on for centuries.  It continues to go on in Africa, Canada, the US.

During my years living in Africa I met people who were professional hunters or who ran hunting concessions.  They were nice people.  I liked them.  I couldn’t understand their chosen profession, but these were people from a different culture than me.

They weren’t bad people, they just had different values than I did.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in South East Asia to near extinction.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in Southeast Asia to near extinction.

In my travels around the world, I have been through many castles, estates and museums, many of which have trophy kills adorning their walls.  Chances are your ancestors did it, whether in Africa, Europe or North America.  I’m pretty sure mine did.  That doesn’t make it right, but back then it was accepted practice.

It is obviously still accepted practice among some circles.  Some people are brought up to believe that it is ok to waste the life of an animal.

But times are changing.  And the thing is now to change the times ourselves.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

The negativitity and death threats, anger and hatred towards this one human being aren’t  doing anyone any good.  We need to redirect this energy and find a positive outcome to this horrible situation.

I hope with all of my heart that Cecil’s legacy will be that of change when it comes to these hunting concessions.  There is now a worldwide outcry about it, which is great, but please let’s not let Cecil’s death be a flash in the media pan.  We can transform these laws if we consistently make our feelings known to the governments who allow these customs to go on.

Here are a number of petitions you can sign to voice your opinion to varying governments that these practices should be banned.  Many of these are growing by the day.  Please add the power of your signature to strengthen our fight.

If we continue to speak up laws will be amended. Trophy hunting bans will be put in place and we can reshape the world of those without a voice.

Let this be Cecil’s legacy.

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits

Petition to South African Airways to ban the transport of trophy kills on their airline

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop Lion hunting

Petition to the US and EU authorities to ban the importation of trophy hunt kills

Petition to the Prime Minister of Canada to ban trophy hunting on Canadian soil

Sophisticated Office Style

I spend a lot of time in my home office.  I love my little lair where rarely anyone treads aside from me and the cat.  I like it to look pretty and to be comfortable.  Pretty much how I would like my office attire to look (if I was going to an office), but there are always times when you need to dress for a meeting or work even if you aren’t going to a conventional workplace everyday.  Below some inspiration for our home offices as well as our work (or meeting) clothes.

I love this combo of classic grey dress with an edgy leather jacket and oversized pearls.  The pop of colour with the clutch is fun too.

Grey dress with leather jacket


This is a great simple black on black work look worn by Victoria Beckham.

 Victoria Beckham


This mix of navy dress with neutral accessories of brown boots and grey handbag modernizes a tried and true work look.

Navy dress with brown boots office look


This classic black & white outfit is updated with a graphic print on the top and the beaded collar worn with an oversized bag.

Black & white office outfit


This is a great look if your office allows for a smart casual dress code. Super simple, but professional.

smart casual office


This home office is a real space for the girls!  There are lots of feminine shapes here, but the black accents keep the scheme grounded and adds drama to the room.

black, white and pink home office


This white on white office is very chic.  Lots of interest added with the constantly changing mood board. Having it in a frame makes it more special and contains the visual busyness of it.

white on white office


This is great use of a corner space for a home office. The navy, grey and white colour pallet is really sophisticated with a pop of yellow.

home office


If you read my blog regularly, you will probably know that I love the look of natural wood mixed with black accessories.  Add a hit of grey, as below, and you have a magic combination. The huge pendant lights are a cool play on scale.

oversized pendant lights over desk


This is also a good solution for a home office if you are short on space. The metallics reflect light around the room, which helps with the feeling of space.  And the mix of black and metallics and that gorgeous black and white picture against the textured grey wall is just gorgeous!

black and metal office nook


What is your favourite office look?  Do you have room for a home office?  Is it a corner or do you have space for a dedicated room?

Sri Lanka: Big Beasts, Big Beaches, Big Beauty

After landing at midnight in the sleeping Colombo and damping down my excitement at having landed on Sri Lankan soil, we went straight to bed and awoke the next morning to the happy sunshine and gorgeous lagoon on which the hotel was located.  We found smiley welcoming people and efficient friendly service. With an amazing cup of local Ceylon tea (yes, apparently tea can be amazing!), we were off to a great start as we hit the road.

Our trip began in Galle, on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.  We arrived by float plane from Colombo (bucket list item, check!), which took us over the beautiful emerald landscape of lush hills and valleys of the interior of the province and landed us on the lovely Kogalla Lake nearby the city.

Galle is home to the old Dutch Fort established in 1663 and thanks to these fortifications the old town was mostly protected from the devastation of the tsunami in 2004.  It is like a little piece of colonial heaven within the confines of the fort walls. Outside the fort walls are the turquoise waters of the Laccadive Sea and the small but buzzing new town.

Galle Fort is filled with pretty little boutique shops open to the steamy outside air, the weathered walls of colonial architecture and cozy restaurants and boutique hotels boasting an interesting history.  There is a cool, relaxed vibe in Galle. It’s a great place to stroll around and stop to sip a cocktail while watching the sunset over the clear blue ocean.

Sri Lanka Buddha

Heading east we explored herb gardens, a tea plantation and temples before finding ourselves at Mirissa for our morning on the ocean in search of the immense, but shy Blue Whale.  We were lucky and spotted some reasonably quickly. A Bryde’s whale, a pod of dolphins, some flying fish and a mating sea turtle couple also made an appearance.  It was a good morning out with one of a few reputable companies who respects international guidelines for approaching the whales.

We stayed at a hotel right on the seaside away from the touristy Mirissa beach and, though there were several other buildings on the same stretch of sand, we rarely saw a soul away from the accommodation. There are vast expanses of completely uninhabited beach all along the coastline in Sri Lanka. The water is warm and welcoming, with teal blue waves lapping at the shore. It is postcard stuff!

Sri Lanka beaches

It is common for travellers to hire a car and driver for their journey in Sri Lanka.  The guide book suggests this because the driving is quite frightening, though in comparison to other countries we’ve experienced in the region, I would say that’s debatable. Regardless, it’s nice to be able to sit back and relax and be driven about by someone who knows the territory.

The scenery changes drastically from idyllic lonely sandy beaches along the coastline, to the vibrancy of the many green-hued tea plantations, national parks and farming landscapes inland, though it would be difficult to decide which is more beautiful.

For a small island, Sri Lanka is park-rich – 14% of its landmass is allotted to the Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Our experience was at Uda Walawe National Park, a peaceful wildlife sanctuary which is known for its wild elephant population and birdlife.  We arrived just as the rains had begun, at which time many of the elephants are less reliant on the main watering holes and move further into the park and away from tourist eyes. We did, however, manage to see several small herds of elephants with a few young ones under their protection.  As a group they graze unobtrusively on the park’s greenery and, given their size, seem barely to disturb their quiet surroundings.

The birdlife is incredible in the park, including an abundance of peacocks who could be found in the trees out of the way of their predators while their feathers were drying from the rains. They would fill the air with the sound of their disappointment at getting their feathers wet.  The peacock’s jewel colours remind me so much of the vibrant hues of the whole of Sri Lanka – the azure and turquoise blues of the ocean and the rich, emerald greens of the inland hills.

peacock silhouette

From Uda Walawe, our driver delivered us to Ella after several hours on good winding roads. There seemed to be surprises at every turn on our car journey, like a quick detour along a meandering road flanked by small lakes covered in blooming water lillies.   At the road’s end, the vast Buddha images carved into an immense rock wall were revealed at Buduruwagala temple.

Buduruwagala temple

Once a quiet town, but now gaining in tourism popularity, hilly Ella is home to several tea plantations and the well known Little Adam’s Peak.  After a gentle hike through one of these tea plantations and up the peak, we found views through the beautiful Ella Gap all the way to the coastline from which we had just come. Smiling tea-pickers in their brightly coloured saris line the track on their breaks from their grueling work.

We drove through stunning landscape all throughout our Sri Lankan journey, but nothing compared to the views we saw from the train from Ella to Kandy. We slipped past train stations with names like Nuwara Eliya and Pattipola, some of the highest elevations in the country, making it ideal tea planting territory and favourite locations for the British tea colonials escaping the heat. The scene from the train window is streaked with rich green tones. It didn’t get old even after a 6 hour journey.  It is breathtaking!

Sri Lanka train trip

We didn’t linger long in Kandy, but we did take some time to explore the impressive and popular Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and its surrounding grounds.  The temple was congested with locals leaving floral offerings for the Buddha and awaiting the Sacred Tooth chamber to be opened.  Our morning at the temple was filled with the ceremonial drum beats of a cluster of traditional drummers striking through the quiet scene as the Buddha in the downstairs chamber was prepared for his ritual washing.

Arriving again in Colombo, we had come full circle on our Sri Lankan trip.  Our brief stay here was accidentally timed with Poya (full moon) Day.  Poya Day is a monthly Buddhist national holiday, so most shops and restaurants are closed aside from a few catering to tourists, as many of the locals head to the temples to spend their day in meditation.

Because it was a holiday, locals were also out in force on Galle Face Green, a big open grassy area facing the ocean and adjacent to one of Colombo’s most famous hotels, the Galle Face Hotel.  Kites were flying, people were playing in the waves, vendors were selling deep fried snacks and music was blasting from 1980’s-style boom boxes. It was a great vibe and a great way to end our stay.

Despite the incredible adversity with which the Sri Lankan people have been faced in their recent history – a 26 year civil war and the major impact along most of the island’s 380 degree coastline of the 2004 tsunami – they are seemingly happy and rightfully so.  It is a beautiful place with so much to offer (including vast amounts of amazing tea!). We were completely taken by this vibrant country and its friendly people and as we left early the next morning, I found myself sad to be leaving.  That is definitely the sign of a good holiday.

My Top 10 Sri Lanka tidbits

  1. Definitely try arrack (liquor distilled from coconut) while in Sri Lanka. The stuff we had was like good whiskey!
  2. As noted, the tea is fantastic in Sri Lanka. If you find yourself in Ella, try the iced tea at Chill Restaurant.  Delicious!
  3. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get alcohol on Poya Day anywhere in Sri Lanka. Though you may be able to find it via room service in some hotels…
  4. Be prepared for delicious but repetitive food across the country. Most of the local dishes don’t vary much anywhere you travel.
  5. The Sri Lankan’s are very serious about any considered disrespect to the Buddha. Always ask if you can photograph at temples and never pose with a Buddha image.
  6. Take the train from Ella to Kandy rather than the reverse route.  This direction is far less congested and seats more readily available.
  7. Malaria is all but eradicated in Sri Lanka, though there are mosquitos and some sand flies. Bring bug spray with you as it’s apparently not easy to find in country.
  8. English is widely spoke on the island making it very easy to communicate.
  9. Stay at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. It is an old beauty with fantastic service and a delicious breakfast.
  10. Go now! There are some big hotels being constructed in Colombo and it appears tourism is on the rise quickly. Not surprising, but go soon if you want to avoid the inevitable masses.

Add Character with Vintage

It’s no secret that vintage is back.  It’s been back for a while, which is making it particularly difficult to find authentic vintage pieces in stores or online, so lots of replicas and copycat designs are cropping up all over the place.  I’ve always loved the look of mixing old with new to create a completely modern and unique style – what woman doesn’t love having something no one else has?  Here are some great vintage-inspired looks both for the home and the closet.

Rachel Zoe dons retro from her hat to her shoes.

rachel zoe vintage style


This is such a flirty 50’s look.  So pretty.

vintage party outfit


Katy Perry is queen of vintage style. She has that sexy, pinup look down to a fine science.


Love these vintage-style stripes!

vintage stripes


In interior design, it’s always great to have something vintage in your space as it adds a sense of history and tells a story about you and your world.  Vintage pieces, particularly mid-century modern pieces, are classics and will never go out of style.

I love Emily Henderson’s cooky style.  She mixes odd & interesting vintage pieces with such flare and her rooms are so alive because of it.

Emily Henderson's retro house


This room has a lot of vintage and classic elements happening.  The neutral colour palette allows them all to work well together.

vintage style interior decorating


This is a classic retro Scandinavian look – teak cabinet, Saarinan Tulip table, teak and leather chair.  You can’t go wrong with wood and black and white. Clean and timeless.

vintage home decor


This room is filled with lots of found treasures. It looks comfortable, casual and welcoming.

vintage interior design


So what’s your take on the vintage vibe?  Are you up for adding a little retro to your home or wardrobe?

Creature Comforts – Animal Prints

Well, it’s been a while, but I’ve recently been inspired to renew my blog and what better time to start than in the New Year? And what better thing to start it off with than one of my favourites – animal print.  It’s sexy and a little bit daring and if used properly at home and in an outfit it can be classy too.

Adriana Gastelum makes leopard print casual with cut offs and a safari style shirt.

Adriana Gastélum in leopard print top


These skinny snake print pants are gorgeous with heels and a fitted jacket.

snake skin print pants


Gwen Stefani, always the style icon, adds a little leopard print with a fedora

Gwen Stefani in leopard print hat


Sarah Rae Vargas is rocking this leopard print dress!  Beautiful with a pop of red in that clutch.

Ravings by Rae leopard print


This zebra print coat is gorgeous with those orange heels!

zebra print coat


I love to see a little dash of animal prints in interiors.  It reminds me a bit of the 5 years we lived in South Africa.  My personal belief is that a little goes a long way in a room.  It can easily look cheap, so you have to be careful how you apply it, but I think the following are great examples of the successful use of animal prints.

This subtle zebra print wallpaper adds nice interest to the space without being aggressive or overwhelming.  The cowhide reinforces the subtle theme.

zebra wallpaper


It’s unusual to see a dalmation-like print, but this really works.  The gold book case and simple pallette add class to this vignette.

dalmation print wallpaper


I like this hit of Zebra print on the ottomans in the room below.  It works well with the other black and white elements in the room and the bright green print keeps it fresh and modern.

Zebra print ottomans


I’ve had a hard time finding a picture of leopard print used in home decor that doesn’t look a bit cheap, but this ottoman works.  I think it’s because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s been made to look a bit more casual with the piping and surrounding decor elements.

leopard print ottoman


So, are you bold enough to try animal print in your closet or interior? How will you pair it with your wardrobe or design?

Merry Christmas!


Christmas 2013

Sales at Great Canadian Craft

Come and see us at the upcoming Fall Into Craft Fair this weekend!