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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Design By 5: Housewears Chats with HGTV's Tommy Smythe

I had a great time chatting with the fourth designer in our Design By 5 series - HGTV's Tommy Smythe, the witty and stylish sidekick for Sarah Richardson on 'Design Inc.', 'Sarah's House', and currently on 'Sarah's Cottage'. Tommy may be slight in stature, but his personality is super sized! As for his design style, he calls himself a maximalist rather than a minimalist. He was happy to give us his perspective on home improvement, and how can you not adore those smiling eyes and perfect (freshly bleached, he told us) pearly whites?

photo courtesy HGTV
Beyond his television work, Tommy is a regular contributor to Canadian House and Home and Style at Home magazine, and he's travelling around the country making appearances. He was the featured designer at the London Home and Garden Show last weekend. At the Opening Night Party at IDS09, we discussed home renovation and the colours he's gravitating to as of late. Design is in Tommy's blood; his grandmother Dorothea was a designer, and his sister Christie Smythe is co-owner of 'Smythe Les Vestes', a chic line of womens' jackets carried by high end department stores such as Holt Renfrew, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale's.

Smythe Equestrian Jacket courtesy Luxe Label

And now, the interview:

Housewears: As you know Tommy, the HRTC (Home Renovation Tax Credit) is an incentive provided to Canadian homeowners until February 2010, allowing savings of up to $1350 for a $10,000 home renovation. Where in a home do you feel people should invest that money to create a 'wow' factor?

Tommy: That's a really great question. I would say kitchens and bathrooms are a great place to invest in, and for both of these, rather than concentrating on up high or down low, I would focus on the mid-line areas, from eye level to waist level because we notice these areas and interact with them most.

Housewears: So, give me some examples of what you would change in an existing kitchen.

Tommy: Definitely kitchen countertops is a good area, even an island top, all of those working areas, backsplashes are a great way to add detail, even faucets, sinks, are areas you would be looking at and interacting with on a daily basis, so a perfect place to add interest.

Carrera marble tile kitchen via Cote de Texas

Simple subway tile and an art niche creates huge interest in this kitchen.

Oval stainless tiles via Apartment Therapy

Photos above and below courtesy of HGTV

photos above and below courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Glass tile goes vertical! courtesy Building Stone Magazine

Housewears: So we also want to know what colours and paint chips you really like right now.

Tommy: Well, one would definitely be green, a deep rich green. It's very regal.

Housewears: So you mean an emerald green?

Tommy: I would call it Yves St. Laurent green, it's stunning. And another colour I love is a battleship gray. It's a great neutral.

Ugly Betty's Becki Newton in green YSL for collection 2009

YSL green shoes via Shoewawa

YSL's Ombre 5 Eyeshadow

Housewears: So the battleship gray would be considered a light gray?

Tommy: Think of a pair of sweatpants. The gray of a sweatshirt. That's a great colour that
works well with so many other colours, and it's so sweats!

Ralph Lauren's Thoroughbred Paint in TH04 'Sweatshirt Gray'

Photo courtesy of These grays look cozy!

Thanks so much, Tommy, for your great ideas! Your energy is infectious, Sarah is so wise to have such a great counterpart! This week, Housewears is hooked on Tommy! Check out Hooked on Houses to see what others are hooked on this week.

We're going to take a break from interviews, so stay tuned for next week's post on colour!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Housewears Interviews HGTV's Emmanuel Belliveau

In light of the fact that Earth Day is quickly approaching, I thought I'd share with you my interview with a "green" TV designer in my 'Design by 5' series of interviews, Emmanuel Belliveau. He's the humourous and creative designer from HGTV's 'My Parents' House',where together with co-host Andrika Lauren, he transforms bland and dated homes caught in a timewarp into updated, functional, beautiful spaces.

He is also the host of a show on the Discovery Channel, (Planet Green) called 'World's Greenest Homes', where he travels the world to report on homes that are innovative and completely environmentally friendly.

A native of New Brunswick, Emmanuel began his career in design with FNDA Architecture Inc. in Vancouver, where he travelled extensively doing design projects in exotic places such as Dubai and Umbassa.
When I met him, he had just returned from a trip to Africa. He was very friendly and sincere, and very happy to chat with me about his recent endeavours.

Now, for the interview:

Housewears: As you know, for 2009, Revenue Canada is providing incentives to Canadian homeowners by offering a 15% tax credit for home renovations from $1000 to $10,000. What, in terms of renos, should homeowners be doing to give their homes a 'wow' factor?

Emmanuel: Honestly, Jill, since I've been hosting "World's Greenest Homes", my perspective on design has changed significantly. I've just come back from Africa, and I've always been someone who has wanted to help others and improve things, but after seeing what I've seen in various parts of the world, I'm more concerned about improvement in a broader sense. We have so much here, and I guess the focus for me is more about conserving and using the 4 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reclaim. It would be great if homeowners could maximize their home's efficiency and maybe incorporate the 4 R's in some way.

Housewears: What specifically would you recommend they do?

Emmanuel: Have their heating and cooling systems checked, upgrade the energy efficiency if needed, replace drafty windows, leaky taps and toilets, improve insulation, purchase high efficiency appliances. In terms of decor, I'd recommend homeowners install recycled and renewable products in their homes, such as bamboo or reclaimed wood, choose recycled glass for tile backsplashes and light fixtures, install carpeting with natural materials such as wool or hemp, reinvent some of their existing furniture, and use paint with low emissions to protect their air quality.

Photo courtesy Peerless Bamboo Flooring
Housewears: Great ideas!I guess little things like using energy efficient lightbulbs in all fixtures can be done. And speaking of paint, can you tell me a paint colour you're a fan of these days?

Emmanuel: Exactly- change your lightbulbs, put in a water filtration system instead of drinking bottled water, have a recycling center in your kitchen, it's all good! And as far as paint, I've always really liked gray, a rich charcoal gray looks great in so many applications.

Thanks so much, Emmanuel, for your ideas! Fortunately, environmentally friendly products are becoming regularly more available, so fear not, to be green does not mean sacrificing style! Here are some great products you can incorporate into a "green" renovation:

Natural pebble tile photo courtesy of

Plantation bamboo flooring photo courtesy of

Hip furniture! photo courtesy Iannone Design

Zac Ridgely's 'Crushed' recycled glass wall sconce, Photo courtesy Mocoloco

Zac Ridgely's Stainless weave lighting, photo courtesy Mocoloco

A Housewears recycling project! Here is the result of a makeover we did for a client on a pair of dated pickled oak chairs with pink and green floral print upholstery. We added gridding to the wall, had the chairs sprayed in high gloss finish, reupholstered them, added statement pillows, and voila, tres chic! Her friends couldn't believe these chairs weren't hot off the showroom floor!

One can still be environmentally conscious and fashionable as well, hence, the term 'eco-chic chick!!'

Bamboo shrug and organic cotton dress by Kelly Lane at Jute and Jackfruit

Matt&Nat eco-chic Kali bag, available at Neiman Marcus, photo via BagSnob
Stella Maccartney's eco-chic raffia platform sandal

I'm hooked on eco-chic products! Don't forget to visit Hooked on Houses for Hooked on Friday, and Fifi Flowers for Fashionable Friday!
How are you being "green"? Stay tuned for my next designer interview in my 'Design by 5' series, or better yet, subscribe to my blog so you don't miss it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Housewears Interviews William MacDonald: What's Cooking in Kitchen Renovations?

I attended a trade seminar in Toronto on kitchens recently, hosted by the entertaining and talented Canadian designer William MacDonald. William has a laundry list of credentials, including Colour Expert for Farrow and Ball, spokesperson for Jenn-Air, he's been a featured designer on HGTV's 'This Small Space', 'House and Home TV', 'CityLine', and a regular contributor for Canadian House and Home Magazine, Style at Home, and The Globe and Mail. He also co-starred in the TV series, 'Great Taste, No Money' and currently appears on the Alliance Atlantis show 'Three Takes' on Slice Network. He is the principal of his own interior design firm in Toronto, and his style is described as contemporary new world chic meets traditional European flair. Some great notes from William's kitchen Seminar:

1. The hottest kitchen look: white, punctuated with bold colour.

2. Appliances are varying their finishes and colours -bronze is a new direction for appliance finishes.

Jenn Air's oiled bronze series of appliances.

3. Go green by recycling a vintage item - repaint it or embellish it, to add personality to your space while being environmentally responsible. William recently had a vintage kitchen table painted in a bold colour and added a metal countertop to modernize the piece.

4. Incorporate something unexpected in the kitchen, such as an oversized piece of art or a large sculpture.

Examples of William MacDonald's design.

And now, my interview:

Housewears: As you know, the Canadian Government has given homeowners incentive to renovate with the HRTC (Home Renovation Tax Credit), which saves homeowners 15% on renovations beyond $1000 to a maximum of $10,000. What do you feel homeowners can do to add the "wow" factor to their kitchen to take advantage of this?

William: There are a number of things that can be done, lighting I think is critical, updating your fixtures can change the look significantly. So many kitchens don't have adequate lighting!
Updated, functional appliances are important as well, and small touches like a backsplash can make a difference. We're seeing alot of interesting use of glass for backsplashes. I like putting metal countertops in a kitchen.

Housewears: So many homeowners struggle with the colour of cabinetry for kitchens. Tell me more about your thoughts on a white kitchen.

William: We're seeing many black and white kitchens with red accents, or another bold primary colour that can be changed when you tire of it. Chair cushions can be reupholstered, a wall can be repainted, accessories changed. Kitchen cabinets are a big expenditure, and the simple white shaker cabinet really has longevity, maybe more so than a particular wood stain. It's clean, dramatic, and the look can be changed with accent colours.

Photo courtesy KCK Kitchens.

Housewears: So are we back to the Draper style of black and white and bold colour, traditional with modern furniture?

William: Yes! That was during economic downturn, and here we are again in tough economic times with the bright bold look coming back again as an accent to black and white, we saw so much of it at IDS 09.

Housewears: And speaking of colour, what is a paint chip you've used recently that you really like?

William: There are so many, but 'Fan Light' is a good one, it's a Para product, (P2103-01)it's a soft pale gray, and it goes with everything, it looks wonderful, and changes with lighting. I love this colour.

Thanks so much, William, for taking time to chat with me! Here are some photos of great white kitchens to enjoy!

photo via Brooke Giannetti Love that marble!

Photo courtesy The Kitchen Designer.

Photo courtesy Southern Accents. All white makes the veggies look deliciously fresh!

Photo courtesy Decorpad.

Photo courtesy Living Etc.

Photo via Daily Mail UK by Micky Hoyle.

Photo by Andreas Charalambous .

Photo courtesy Kitchen Options.

Photo Courtesy Design In Out. Solid glass backsplashes are an alternative to glass tile.

Photo via BeachBungalow8 .

Photo courtesy Roxxon.

Photo courtesy Style-Files.
I'm hooked on fabulous white kitchens this week, check out what others are hooked on this Friday at Hooked on Houses, and check out Fifi Flowers for Fashionable Friday!
Stay tuned for the comments of the next designer I chatted with in my "Design By 5" series!