Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sarah Off The Grid ~ Family Hangout + Guest Suites

Hello Wednesday! What a glorious weekend we had in Toronto and I could only imagine what a fantastic time folks had in the country.  Out in the nature, warm summer breeze, bright blue sky with birds singing all day long, now I just need to sign myself up for a timeshare property!

Speaking about relaxing country living, it is time to check-in progress on Week 2 at Sarah Off The Grid on HGTV Canada.  This week, Sarah and her team tackled the entire lower level for family living and a cozy, welcoming place for guests to call home. 

I have never met a blue and white room I don't love.  This sensational family gathering space is dressed head to toe in style and it wears many different hats.  From lounge / movie sweet spot, kids play / dance zone, to pool game / mini bar for the grown ups, this basement does it all.  

If there is one major element that gives this space its incredible character and charm (aside from the color palette), it is the use of salvage barn beams.  Once a weathered barn about to be dismantled, now these beams live a second life and are being showcased as a stunning post and beam feature in Sarah's brand new home.  Accentuated by a roaring wood stove in glossy dark blue (a.k.a. the inspiration for the either color scheme of this room!), heritage inspired tiles with a star motif, organic / natural materials in fabrics, rugs, and accessories, this case study of white + blue in the country is right on!          

Who knew pool table can be this chic? For those who don't know how to play pool (like me), I am ready to hang out by those comfy armchairs.  Storage is key, especially out in the country, when you may need extra supplies after a big snowstorm.  The walls of storage with simple door profile and understated hardware satisfy the functional requirement, while the sleek black and white color combination serves as the perfect backdrop to showcase the many shades of blues and a stylish contrast to the rustic reclaimed wood.     

The wood shelf for drinks and accessories: #bravo!

Let's check out the "sleeping quarters" for overnight guests.  Known for her genius creativity to mix a variety of complementary fabrics for stunning results, Sarah opted for a single print to shine in this neutral bedroom outfitted by grasscloth wallpaper and painted wall panels.  From drapery to chairs and accent pillows, this dynamic and graphic fabric is it!  For a soothing and calming effect, a lighter shade of blue was pulled from the main fabric and is used throughout the room via throw pillows, area rug, accent table, and glass accessories.    

I am usually not a fan of red but this effortlessly elegant bedroom is so welcoming and inviting that I may want to try it out in my own home!

Have you ever secretly wished a sophisticated yet playful kid bedroom is actually where you will spend the night? Well this one is on top of my list! I love the energy and happiness of a cheerful yellow, especially when pairing with grey and white.

This wallpaper with a tree motif is perfectly suitable for adults (you probably have seen it used in other design makeovers) and what a great reference to the breathtaking view right outside the windows.  With sleeping capacity of four (maybe up to six), these DIY bunk beds are put together with simple wood materials available from the big-box store.  Once painted a fresh coat of white, they look phenomenal without breaking the bank.     

With some savings from making the beds from scratch, Sarah was able to install these super cool sailboat inspired wall lights, invest in a pair of good looking and tech savvy table lamps (wireless phone charging my friend), outfit a homey spot for two with the whimsical rockers, and put a smile on your face with an oversized floor lamp.  

Just as I thought that Sarah would never use a dark color as a permanent installation in a bathroom (usually darker colors are used as accent and can be easily changed), well she surprised me with this beautiful glossy blue tile! To add interest to this otherwise windowless box, Sarah focused on the execution of the finishing details. The ceiling detail, the band of vertical tiles in the shower (I so have to do this in my next bathroom), the mix of rustic and refine with a vanity made from salvage lumber + marble top, the matte black, oil rubbed bronze faucet, shower, and accessories, this guest bathroom is incredible!     

And the linking point of all these sensational rooms in the basement: this super attractive hallway, a fabulous focal point as you walk down the stairs, and a mud room that houses all the boots, jackets, and sport gears.  That hex floor tile, what a great idea for impact and to act as transition between the white oak floor and the practical grey tiles in the mudroom.

 * all images courtesy of HGTV Canada

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sarah Off The Grid: Belvedere Room

Hello Wednesday! With bright sunshine and slightly cool air, fall is definitely one of my favourite seasons (well summer is fabulous but I could live without the humidity).  From back-to-school to happy Thanksgiving, autumn is the best time to be inspired by nature and to give our home a quick update with a healthy dose of warm, earthy hue.

A fall refresh at my home maybe a cosmetic one but Sarah Richardson, along with her husband Alexander (Minister of Exteriors) and her two daughters, and of course Uncle Tommy, is set to build a 5,000 square feet country home in Creemore Ontario.  With an ambition plan to power this family home off the grid without sacrificing comfort, Sarah and Alexander have to explore all possible green energy options to keep the rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter ... and to cook up a feast or two.

For the next six weeks, Sarah and the team will build the home from ground up, tackle the room one by one, share with us the fun (and stress) as general contractor, and how to decorate the entire house in Sarah's signature style.

Welcome to Sarah Off the Grid and for week 1, we are at the Belvedere Room.

Belvedere means "fair view"and at this country home, the view is breathtaking. 

To make sure this little piece of heaven functions as an adult oasis for Sarah and Alexander, as well as a cozy spot for their daughters to host sleepovers, Sarah and Tommy cooked up a game plan to create a loungey hangout that also maximizes an uninterrupted view of the stunning Niagara Escarpment.

From plan to reality, here is a bright, airy space filled with natural lights (there are 95 windows in this house after all) and a custom U-shape bench topped with throw pillows for a master class of how to layer patterns / textile, not to mention the huge saving from building the sofa with simple lumber supplies.    

With the entire room painted a creamy white, your eyes are drawn to the incredible views beyond these energy efficient vinyl windows.  And to bring the outdoor in, Sarah and Tommy opted for a color palette of white, grey, gold, and navy: all the accent colors you see in the horizon.

To up the cozy factor with warm, earthly tones, Sarah added two leather poufs with beautiful embroidery detail, a contemporary yet rustic solid wood coffee table, and a hide rug that injects an extra shot of cognac.  The collection of pillows in a variety of fabrics most certainly add character and charm to the Belvedere.      

Speaking about character and charm, nothing beats a vintage candelabra for a romantic and worldly touch + a few sensational fixtures such as the lantern inspired pendant and a pair of brass sconces.    

A winding staircase means not much in the way of furniture could make it up to the Belvedere.  Sarah managed to find a well-proportioned hutch that provides storage and offers an ideal surface for a minibar and accessories that remind us of the great outdoors.

Perfectly put by Tommy: this view never gets old.  I couldn't agree more.

Sarah is off to a great start with the Belvedere Room and I look forward to check out the main floor this Sunday for another exciting episode of Sarah Off The Grid.

* All images courtesy of HGTV Canada 

Friday, September 8, 2017

#DesignMazeTravel ~ SEE + EAT + SHOP in Munich

Hello Friday! Time flies and the weekend is almost here.  I will be busy running around town to get ready for a couple of exciting projects but if you are in Munich (and staying at Motel One), boy don't I have your days all mapped out!

After I thoroughly enjoyed my days in Munich living like the locals, here are my top favorite places for your next visit.

If you are looking for adorable postcards, prints, and calendars, Bookstore at the Gasteig has got your covered.  Located minutes away from the busy downtown core, this friendly neighborhood store is full of treasures.

From bookstore to quick bite in the morning, Trachtenvogl is one super cool cafe bar with a retro vibe.  Staff were friendly, the food was delicious, and an English menu was available!   

A few steps away from Trachtenvogl is HAY, a store full of furniture and accessories for modern living with a sophisticated industrial twist.  And because we don't have a HAY store in Toronto (some items are available at KLAUS by NIENKAMPER and Average), Hay is my must-see every time I travel to Europe.

I will take you on a store tour next week but for now, don't you just love the HAY Mini Market?

After a quick shopping therapy, maybe it's time to enjoy a specialty beverage of Germany: Beer.  On our way to the famous beer house in town, why not have a quick stop at the old and new town hall at Marienplatz?  

The impressive new town hall was built in the late 1800s and it remains the offices of city officials and part of the administration.  At 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. (also 12 p.m. in the summer), the square is packed with folks waiting for the Rathaus-Glockenspiel to chime and the 32 life-sized figures to re-enact two stories from the 16th century.  Fun to watch but beware: it is very crowded.  

The old town hall is surely an iconic building in Munich and in my opinion perhaps the most charming of all.  The orange and turquoise accent, the golden ball on top of every spire: it was love at first sight.  

Sandwiched between the old and new town halls is the luxurious department store: Ludwig Beck.  You will find the top brands here but shopping aside, isn't the store incredibly stylish and fun?

A quick turn into a quiet corner and I have landed a jackpot of serenity and geometric marvel.  I will have to ask Chris where exactly this courtyard was but don't you just love the diamond pattern? 

Finally we are at the Hofbrauhaus, the royal beer house of Munich (owned by the Bavarian state  government).  Even if you are not a beer fan, it's surely a fun place to hangout, to experience first-hand the beer culture of Germany, or just to admire the colorful interiors.

Around the corner from the beer house is the famous shopping central in town, the Salvator Passage, which also has a beautiful courtyard cafe right next to Muji, and the home of the Kunsthalle Munich.  

The cafe at Kunsthalle is definitely a place you want to check out.  From furnishings, lighting, to that stunning wall, what's not to love?  

The Englischer Garten is one of the largest urban parks in the world.  Starting in 1789, more buildings and green spaces were added to this beautiful garden along the Isar River.  The Chinese Tower is certainly one of the most recognized buildings in the English Garden, but I also remember how much I enjoyed the Christmas market right here over the holiday.  

Walking back from the Englischer Garten to Munich-Deutsches Museum Motel One, you could also pass by the Angel of Peace and the Maximilianeum for a truly magnificent sunset + a view of Munich's landmarks.

As if I haven't shared enough of what to do in a weekend, here is an alternative to those who hate shopping and crowds (yes ... Chris is one of them).

The Mullersches Volksbad is one of the most elaborately decorated swimming pools I have ever seen.  From swimming pool, Roman steam bath to Finnish sauna, there is something for everyone to relax and rejuvenate.

If you rather be outdoor on a gorgeous summer day, take a walk along the Mullersches Volksbad and the Isar River and you will find a beach where the locals hangout.

After all the bread, cakes, and beer, it's time to work off the extra calories.  MISS Sportstudio is a great place for the task.  Igor took me with him for a class on Saturday and it was exactly what I need: a jumpstart of my workout routine.  Thanks Igor!

After a sweaty workout, I am off to my guilty pleasure: cafe and bar.  Rosi is around the corner from Motel One and across the street from the Mullersches Volksbad, making it the ideal choice for supper while in town.  In fact, I actually had dinner there twice during this visit.  

Be sure to check out the menu at the back of the cafe and ask the hostess what's the special of the day.  You won't be disappointed.   

Of course Igor takes the most amazing pictures and here are two he captured at dinner: 

Hopefully you have saved room for dessert because True & 12 is THE place you want to be for an authentic, high quality, mouth-watering handmade ice cream. Did know that pistachio ice cream is not naturally green and lavender ice cream shouldn't be purple? Let me tell you, True & 12 is by far the best ice cream I have ever had!

The decoration is also eye-catchy and whimsical, perfectly suited for a cheerful ice cream shop.  Be sure to check for open hours in fall / winter, as the store maybe closed in the winter months.

That's it for me! Please let me know what are some of your favorite places in Munich and I will for sure check it out on my next visit!