My Favorite Design Trends 2016

I've wanted to do a post on some of my favorite 2016 design trends for a while now and I'm happy to say I've finally gotten around to it. Perhaps I should call this post "my favorite designs moments", or "design trends that are still going strong", or perhaps even more fitting "design ideas that I like that may or may not be actual design trends" because at the end of the day, these are things that inspire me and influence my style in a tremendous way. 

I think what's really important that's been developing over the last couple of years is that people want their spaces to be a true reflection of themselves. No longer do we want generic homes - god no.  Builder basic? Gross. Cookie cutter? Don't even say those words! We want to add flavor and personality - even if that means doing an all white space (and yes it's all about texture).  I love that normal human beings (not just designers or those with a creative flair) are pushing themselves to experiment. People are finally opening up to different styles, even if it's outside of their comfort zone. We are no longer safely decorating for the sake of simply making sure it's going to work for -- you know where I'm going - "re-sale".  At least I like to think so. It's as if we have unlocked this little design box that we've lived in for a while, and now, finally, we are not scared to be a little different. And you shouldn't be because who wants to be boring anyways?

I'm a bit weary of people that don't embrace change. I know it's easy to get stuck in ruts, but I dare you to casually toss aside what your preconceived notions are of what HGTV has shown you to be "on trend". Sorry, I probably played a somewhat very small role in that, but on shows we have limited budgets and are told to cater to Suzy (or Linda, or Tammy), who's middle aged, shops at Homesense (nothing wrong with Homesense, but you get the idea) and lives somewhere -- and nowhere -- in Sarnia or middle America. Sorry Suzy, Linda and Tammy, but yellow chevron stripes and barn board are just not cool anymore. And "pops of color", especially in teal (unless done well), are dreadful. Ladies - I beg you, please open your eyes, and listen...these awful style decisions are just made for mediocre television shows, based on product availability, fast turn arounds and tight budgets. And often bad design taste from junior designers, who are probably working their butts off but not getting paid very well.

Now that I've offended most of middle America, and probably all women over forty that live in small towns in Canada, and of course, anybody named Suzy, Linda and Tammy.., let's continue, shall we?

How would I define my style? Well that's a good question. With an extremely hard and convoluded answer.  I like simple forms so I gravitate towards Scandinavian and Mid Century shapes. But I also like playful and happy touches so I'm not afraid to play with patterns and colors. And then I also love antiques and introducing unexpected pairings.  I suppose I like layered spaces that are contemporary (the most dreaded style word because it means so many things to different people BUT the true definition would be what's currently on trend, not the sterile and cold spaces you are probably imagining), modern and eclectic, but spaces that are also fun, fresh and playful. Basically, I'm a minimalist at heart who loves things.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at some design trends. I know there are a million more that I could have added but I'm a one woman show here, and this took forever!

UPDATE: I only got around to doing half of my intended design trends, pop by soon to see part two!

BLACK STEEL FACTORY STYLE WINDOWS AND DOORS - This style has been around for a long time and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. It's both modern and classic, and works with any interior. I love the idea of using it to separate spaces within the home. Keep in mind that this look works best with light colored floors, white walls and lots of natural light. Absolutely gorgeous.

OMBRE TABLES - This is certainly an interesting trend, but I really like it. The fluid ombre effect gives each piece a cool edge. This is the Proenza Schouler of your wardrobe or Aquazzura of your shoe closet. 

ARCHED DOORS / DOORWAYS - To help offset all the hard edges we are seeing in interiors of the moment, softer forms, often found in the architecture of the home, give spaces a sense of warmth and history.

DEEPLY VEINED MARBLE - I love marble. I understand mining it is not the best for mother earth, but it's so pretty. And I like that I'm seeing more variations in what people are choosing to install in their kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. I love classic white marble, but there are so many other gorgeous kinds out there that add so much more character. Don't be afraid to experiment.

UNEXPECTED PAINT JOBS - I love things that are unexpected. And using paint to add more dimension and interest to your home is a cool and completely affordable option.

PUNCHY YELLOW - Yellow makes me happy. It takes a bold person to add a really strong yellow to their home. This is not soft and mellow country yellow, but yellow on acid. If using this kind of yellow, try to keep other colors on the down low.

CANED FURNITURE - Caned furniture has never been viewed as sexy. You don't often go "if only I had a caned furniture piece in here it would make the room".  It makes me think of grandpas or libraries and a nice wool cardigan over a gingham button down.  And yet it has a special place in my heart. Most caned furniture is both timeless and classic. Today, caned furniture has had a subtle but fresh update. Lighter woods, upholstery and leather additions have re-imagined these forms, allowing each piece to either become a showstopper (take a look at the geometric high back chair below) or an instant classic, like the long bench, which would be a welcome addition to any entry.

ROUND MIRRORS - Circular mirrors are having a bit of a moment. Not sure why, maybe because square mirrors have been dominating the home for so long. I love brass and gold, so those are the ones I gravitate to the most. These days, you can now find large circular mirrors at a majority of retailers like CB2 and West Elm.

SLEEK BUILT IN STORAGE SOLUTIONS - I have been fascinated by built ins ever since I can remember. Most homes in Europe had them and I always thought that they were so elegant. I can still recall the entire wall of built in cabinets we had in our apartment in Athens, it was the most beautiful thing ever. Today, build ins are quite sleek and minimal, with few even having any hardware. It's a seamless look that is essential if you hate clutter and want to tuck most of your things away.

SHADES OF GREEN - Green is a beautiful color in any shade. Forest green has such a regal quality, while lighter shades of mint feel cool and fresh.  I love that all kinds of green are popping up in kitchens, furniture and even flooring. I may die of green envy any day.

WINDING STAIRCASES - I find winding staircases to be so sexy. They add plenty of movement and are often the highlight of any room. I mean, have you ever been inside a home that had a winding staircase and it wasn't the first thing you were drawn to? I didn't think so.

PATTERNED TILE - I know, patterned tile has been around for literally ages, but then Pinterest came along and all of a sudden it's the next big thing. Bold geometric shapes have taken the design world by storm, but there are still plenty other ways you can add patterned tile to great effect. I will do a whole blog post on my favorite pattered tile when I can, but in the meantime, enjoy these beauties here.

BLACK AND GLASS DISPLAY CABINETS - This is a great example of a trend (see black framed steel windows and doors above) that's been filtered down and made more accessible. Those wanting to bring a touch of the look can do so by adding a black framed glass display cabinet to their kitchens, living rooms or even bedrooms.

SHEEP - Yes - sheep! If I had the option, I would probably have a strange animal object in each room in my house (on second thought, we do actually, but they are rather quite small and unobtrusive). Unfortunately, I don't think my husband would allow it, nor would my dog appreciate it or find it cute and hilarious. I've been loving the quirky addition of sheep in interiors for a while now, it makes such an oddball statement and a unique conversation piece. Design is supposed to be fun and it doesn't get more fun than sitting on a flock of sheep in your living room.

PLAYFUL LIGHTING - Who ever said you have be serious about lighting? I like adding a dose of quirk to any interior, and the lights below prove that playful lighting is sure to bring a smile to your face every time you turn on the light.

LIGHT WOOD KITCHENS - I've wanted a light wood kitchen for forever. I don't know what it is about it that speaks to me, but they just makes me feel calm and peaceful. Design trends come and go, but whether it be in oak or birch, these kitchens prove that natural wood will never go out of style.

NAKED FURNITURE - This trend is sort of tied to the one above. I remember years ago when it seemed like Ikea was the only retailer putting out any light colored furniture. I think naked unstained, birch or oak furniture has had a bit of an uphill battle over the years, not wanting to be slotted into that Ikea mindset, of cheap and cheerful design. Not all furniture needs to be stained - even if your grandma thinks so.

QUIET BATHROOMS - When it comes to bathrooms, simplicity truly is the ultimate in luxury. I love clean, zen type spaces where you can escape the hustle of the every day and take a quiet moment to yourself. I especially love the idea of limiting your materials here -- you don't need a lot going on to really appreciate the thoughtful design behind all of these bathrooms.

Holiday Countdown - Gift Edition Part 3

With Christmas less than ten days away, I hope that the final push to finish up your holiday shopping has not crushed you just yet. To make things a tad easier, I'm providing you with another edition of my curated collection of gifts, this time for the City Sophisticate. She's a stylish woman in her late 20s to mid 30s, a young professional that knows what she likes and what she wants, and who prefers unique, feminine and thoughtful finds that are luxurious but still practical enough to use everyday.

Buy her any of these gems, and you will probably be in her good books forever.

1. Woodlot Re-charge Package - $59 - This lovely Canadian made toxin free bundle includes a coconut wax candle, a nourishing soap bar, and mineral bath soaks. Everything is made out of rosemary + peppermint essential oils, and this little set is the perfect way to help her relax and recharge during the holidays.

2. Ilia Multi Stick - $34 - For the girl on the go, who doesn't need a lot of makeup, nor does she really want to put it on anyways. This magic stick comes in six unique shades, and works on cheeks, eyes and lips, providing a sexy but subtle hint of rosy shine that will enhance any winter complexion.

3. Ring Dish - $32 - This gorgeous little handmade ring dish is made out of porcelain and features a delicate gold rim. Each dish is one of a kind and will look right at home holding her favorite jewelry on her nightstand or dresser.

4. Stone Morter & Pestle - $272 - Almost too pretty to use, this Tom Dixon Morward white marble and brass set is sure to become a family heirloom.

5. Lady Bag - $1350 USD - Mansur Gavriel has been on the top of my wish list for the last couple of years, but only now can you find this extremely hard to find label in Canada. It's currently sold at Holts, and I'm kind of fearful because once things are no longer rare, my deep lust and attraction can sometimes go away. However, this chic carryall shouldn't worry, as it's essentially the perfect IT bag. It's totally sexy and naked, roomy enough for everyday use, and it comes in six colorways.

6. BarreWorks - During any gift giving season, I beg you to never give a girl a gym membership. Unless it's what she wants, trust me, just stay away. But BarreWorks is totally different. With two locations in Toronto, this is a super on trend fun ballet inspired workout that I think any girl would probably be quite happy to get. You can purchase a 5 class pack ($95) or a two weeks of unlimited classes for $40.

7. Lip Gloss - $42 - This has to be my favorite lip gloss ever.  I love that it's all natural, glides on without all that gunky mess, and it provides me with a youthful shine that stays on for hours. Well worth the hefty price tag.

8. Drop Earrings - $1805 - I've never been a big diamond fan, but these drop diamond earrings with a rose gold finish are modern classic. While extremely gorgeous, they are subtle enough to wear everyday.

9. Pillow - $212.50 USD - This luxurious Molto dual sided pillow from DWR features cashmere wool on one side and cotton velvet on the other, each with a slightly different look and feel.

10. Sweater Coat - $595 USD - This simple oatmeal Yak sweater coat from Jenni Kayne is exactly the kind of thing you want to throw on during a cold day. Unfortunately, they don't deliver to Canada, but when there's a will, there's a way...

11. Scarf - This stunning scarf is made from 100% crape silk, and is produced in very limited quantities in the EU. Lucky for us, you can purchase it in store at Ewanika or have it shipped to Canada.

12. Watch - $189 USD. A classic minimalist watch in rose gold and grey leather. You can purchase it online or in store at Likely General.




The Big Sofa Challenge

There is absolutely no reason for me to currently want to purchase a new sofa. I know it's a really large investment and we shouldn't even be considering it, but my brain doesn't work that way. Ideally, I would love a modular sectional, something that can be configured any way we see fit. It would be fantastic for apartment living, and it's awesome because you can just add more pieces down the line if needed.

My first pick is the Connect Sofa by Mutto. I love how easy it is to specify exactly what modules you need to create the ideal sofa shape for your space, the low profile, and of course, it's chunky base. For what we would want, this would set up back around $10,000. Not a cheap sofa by any means, but I'm a big believer in buying something that you love once, and hopefully never having to buy it again.

My second choice is the Mags Sofa by Hay. Also modular, it allows you to configure the set up based on your needs. It looks so comfy, sturdy, and the ultimate spot to lounge out on after a long day. In terms of pricing, it comes in a tad lower than the Connect Sofa above, but again, there's not exactly a deal here.

Lastly, I'm also kind of digging the Mix, the new modular sofa system by Gus Modern. Like all the above, the Mix let you mix and match components and fabrics to build a custom sectional, so you end up with whatever shape best fits your space. Plus Gus Modern is a Canadian design company based out of Toronto, and it's always nice to support local businesses that actually make awesome products. Price wise, you have to contact the store directly in order to get a quote, so I'm not quite sure what we would be looking at here.

While I love all of the above options, I was really dismayed to learn that the Connect Sofa is made from cold foam and the Mags Sofa is made out of polyurethane foam. Seeing as how these are two Scandinavian brands that I really adore, who I hoped would care about using only natural materials in their products, it's a total bummer, especially when you factor in the high price tags.

At least the Mix Sofa from Gus Modern is manufactured to meet California TB117-2013 fire safety standards without the use of flame retardant additives in upholstery foam, however, they still use some kind of foam, made from chemicals, so while they have made a step in the right direction, they definitely have a ways to go. And while the brand is open to using a different filler for their upholstery, they suggested soy foam or recycled plastic bottles as an alternative, these options are not exactly healthy or green, even though it's easy to think they can be.

It's crazy to me that in almost 2016 (less than two months away!), most people are still sitting on and breathing in some incredibly toxic substances, mostly found in sofa cushions and mattresses. Is it for a lack of information? There have been so many studies done about this, and yet it's almost as if people don't want to believe it. These toxic substances are contributing to our failing health, leaching into our bodies and making us sick.  We made the switch to an organic latex mattress this summer (scroll down if you want to read my review - spoiler alert, it's one of the best decisions we ever made), and now I'm faced with the really difficult challenge of finding a organic latex sofa.

I know there are a few companies who specialize in making natural products in the US, like Ekla and Green Sofas, but unfortunately, here in Canada, our options are sadly pretty much non existent. The closet I got was Cisco Brothers,  who retail through Elte, and make all of their products available for purchase using their green technology. The company states "Cisco’s Inside Green technology is our smart, healthy, responsible, alternative method of building furniture made entirely from Natural Latex, organic wool, organic goose feathers and down. These natural materials are not only superior in terms of comfort and lifespan, but are inherently flame retardant and hypo-allergenic. Every product in the Cisco line can be ordered using Inside Green technology." I only wish I wanted one of their sectionals. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful, just not what I am looking for.

For now, the search continues. But if I can't find what I want, I'm going to see if I can at least switch out our current sofa cushions for organic latex versions, if I can track down a Canadian supplier willing to cut custom sizes. Again, there is a company doing it in the US called Foam to Order, but the shipping fees would be killer. If anybody knows where to look or has any suggestions, feel free to let me know.

The Hip World of Artisan Crafts Featuring Ariele Alasko

If you like unique, handcrafted, charming yet skillfully designed products, you are probably already a fan of Ariele Alasko. And if you are in the design world and religiously follow design blogs or read magazines like DesignSponge or Kinfolk, and you've have never heard of this amazing woodworking artist, you probably live under a rock. For the rest of you, I will give you a pass and hope to inspire you to start following her on Instagram (and join over 369K people that do) immediately.

I stumbled upon her work a couple of years ago, during one of those Instagram binges where one thing led to another, and I ended up following over 20 new feeds. Probably not the kind of binge most people are used to, but in my world, yeah, things got craaaazy.

Besides her immense talents in woodworking, Ariele is a great photographer who knows what her style is and can really speak to her audience. You like teepees? Check. Beautiful horses? Check. Desert scapes? Check . Rustic flowers? Check. Cute Brooklyn apartments? Check. I could go on and on but you get the idea. She also features her new creations as well, and if you don't spot these goodies and scoop them up right away, chances are they will be sold out by the time you look at her website.

Ariele is sculptor by trade, who gathers discarded strips of wood from old NY brownstones, cleans them up, and uses the materials to create intricate patterns that grace tables, headboards, and wall hangings.  In addition to her furniture pieces, she excels at hand carving spoons, trays, and serving bowls, and has inspired many more artisans to start working in this field. But we all know who started this trend. And unlike some of her imitators, you can see the love and time she spends on each item, ensuring it will be a treasured family heirloom hopefully passed down for generations.

Couple of things to keep in mind if you want to score one of her pieces - she doesn't do wholesale, so you have to buy direct. But like I mentioned, if you don't jump at the immediate opportunity to buy it as soon as you spot it on instagram, good luck my friend.

So you don't like sleeping on chemicals either? Great.

I've always had a crush on Hästens mattresses. The checkered pattern, the luxurious natural fabrics and materials made of horse hair and carefully selected Swedish pine, the unbelievable craftsmanship, and of course, the promise of the ultimate sleep experience.

These mattresses are the stuff dreams are made of, literally, if you have a kidney to sell or a 5% down payment on a house in the GTA. If only I wasn't so squeamish about selling off that one kidney...but I am, and I would like to keep growing that down payment for a house that I still probably will not be able to afford in Toronto. And yet my husband and I desperately needed a new mattress - ours is uncomfortable, sad, and pathetic - and so the search began.

We looked (and by we I do mean me) for months online to find a natural, safe, non toxic mattress that wouldn't cost us and arm and a leg. This was a tough search. I read countless comments on websites, any reviews I could get my hands on, articles with any mentions, forums, you name it. So many companies make claims to being "natural", or "organic", and the reality is that most of these claims are well, kind of fake. So how do you wade through these murky waters to find a mattresses that will actually be good for you and your family? I wish I could give you the perfect answer, but until these companies are actually held liable like other industries for making specific claims, it's really up to you to do the most research that you can and go with what feels right at the end of the day.

What I can tell you is that I finally narrowed it down to three choices - Obasan, Essentia, and Dormio.

While they were all good contenders, in the end we ended up going with Dormio mattresses, and we settled on their Premium collection. I loved the addition of the cloud like wool pillow top that makes you feel like you are basically sleeping on a comfy duvet. Their beds are made of organic latex (don't confuse this with the disgusting memory foam you will find in other mattresses - organic latex comes from the rubber tree and it is 100% natural), organic wool, and organic cotton.

They have many different mattresses at many different price points - you just have to find the one that works for you. And while some might think our mattresses was a definite splurge, to us it's more of an investment in our health and our future. We sleep in our bed 8 hours a day (if we are lucky), and this mattresses will last us for a good 20 years. It's completely customizable, and we can actually make changes to it as we grow. It's like a living and breathing thing that will adapt to our lifestyle for many years to come.

Also, the service that we received at this store was exceptional. Never once did I feel pushed into making a purchase, and my husband and I spent almost two hours testing out and learning more about their products. All of these mattresses are Canadian made, and we even purchased two wool pillows (they also have alpaca, kapok, buckwheat, and latex as well), a wool duvet, and some organic sheets to complete our new mattress set. Everything is being delivered in a few weeks and we absolutely cannot wait.

And just so everyone knows, this is NOT a paid advertisement. I actually liked the company so much, that I asked if they had a referral system, and they offered any of my clients or readers an extra 10% off on all of their products. So go now, while they still have sales!