A few more style notes…

By Caitlin Kelly

We love to have dinner on our balcony, a pleasure we eagerly await all year long

A few more thoughts…

Once a year or so, take inventory — toss/add as your budget allows

It’s easy, when you live with the same objects year after year after year after year, to overlook the point at which:

1) you’re bored to tears with them; 2) your tastes have really changed but your home shows no sign of this; 3) your things are now really stained/torn/worn out/scratched.

Towels and bed linens do wear out; try Zara Home for terrific and stylish new options.

We recently took our glassware, wrapped it carefully and gave it to our town’s thrift store, and finally treated ourselves to new, handsome glassware, both for water/juice and wine.

These are the wine glasses, from West Elm, and the juice/water glasses, also from West Elm.

We love them!

A collection can be three (or more!) of pretty much anything. Group them together for impact


The large black horse, hand-carved folk art, was found in an antiques shop in Port Hope, Ontario and the little wooden one at auction there. The little metal guy? I can’t remember.



Three of these, the angular ones, we bought in Mexico City, pewter; one is silver plate and one…not sure!


Years of collecting have given me a decent collection of silver and silver-y objects


Think long-term

It’s always tempting to buy cheap stuff because…it’s cheap!

But waiting, saving up and paying a little more for better-quality fabrics, better furniture construction and classic design means you’ll be able to enjoy your things for years, maybe decades.


Classic doesn’t have to mean boring!


I still love the three antique painted rush-seat chairs I sent home from a country auction in Nova Scotia to my then home in Toronto — using them many years later.

Thrift and consignment shops, especially those located in upscale neighborhoods or towns (i.e. drive if necessary!) can be a treasure trove of amazing quality. Craigslist and Ebay, ofย  course, also have a wide range of offerings.

If you know what you’re looking at — (is it a real antique or a reproduction? Oak or maple? Wood or laminate? sterling or silverplate? glass or crystal?) — tag and estate sales are another great source.

Invest in the best-quality framing you can

It forces you to be highly selective once you start using a frame shop, as even the smallest piece can cost $150 for a custom-cut frame.

It’s money well spent to preserve your favorite things, whether a letter from a grandparent or treasured photographic prints (make sure the mat is acid-free and the glass UV-resistant.)

I like the wooden frames from Pottery Barn (on sale!) and Anthropologie has some quirky and charming ones as well; Pier One can be a great source for more ethnic/rustic styles.

Study every room — what shapes are in it, and how does each piece relate to others?

Most furniture is inevitably square (tables, chairs) or rectangular (beds, chests, sofas.)

Before you know it, you’ve filled every room with big fat chunks of stuff, now looking crowded and tedious. Sigh!

Think about including a variety of shapes (ovals? circles?) and scale (large, small?)

Does each room also include a variety of height (chairs, chests, armoires, etc) so your eye moves around it easily?

Make sure you have at least 24 inches between every piece or you’ll always feel hemmed in and irritable as you keep bumping into things.



Our living room — which faces northwest and gets a lot of light — has two mirrors in it; our sitting room has one, and our bedroom has one as well, all decorative.

The mirror pictured above came out of one of my favorite antique shops, in the town of North Hatley, Quebec; it’s clearly Middle Eastern and was filthy…took an hour of Windex and Q-tips to get most of the dust out of all that fretwork! It cost about $225.


A pretty mirror fills a few functions nicely:


1) it fills up a dead wall; 2) it reflects light into and around the room; 3) a lovely frame can add color, interest and texture relating to the rest of the room; 4) you can see yourself!

Of the four mirrors we own, only one was bought new (from Anthropologie); this one. It’s very affordable — $128 — for a lovely and intricately hand-carved wooden frame that feels exotic and vaguely Indian or Celtic.

It now sits on an apple-green wall so there’s a nice contrast between the background and the wood.

The rest came from antique stores.

Several favorite sources for stylish new mirrors include the websites Horchow, Wisteria, and Ballard Designs.

Mirrors are also more versatile than highly-colored artworks, and can easily be moved from room to room as your tastes change.

6 thoughts on “A few more style notes…

  1. Thanks for a great couple of posts. I studied Interior design in Atlanta back in the eighties. I wasn’t very successful but I learned a lot, like how it’s easier to find a fabric to go with that rug you like than it is to find a rug that works with the fabric.
    Remember Metropolitan Home? They had a bit at the end of every issue with a ten thousand dollar room and a five hundred dollar room with the same look, a boon for those of us with style but no money.
    I made a mistake early on that kind of changed my approach. I moved around a lot in the days of my youth and could never take anything big with me, so I developed the habit of keeping my mementos small, usually no bigger than a silver dollar. They are wonderful for my private contemplation but not very much else from a decorative standpoint.
    My, but I do go on. Thanks for letting me hijack your post for a bit. I like to discuss design and don’t often get the chance so this was great.
    Read you later.

    1. Loved Met Home!

      I hear you on the moving around thing…

      I’ve been the same (!) 1bdrm apt since 1989, with no hope of ever living in a house unless we sold our place and moved somewhere very cheap…so I’ve accumulated some stuff, but (due to space constraints) very little, relative to a house with multiple bedrooms, for example.

      It’s forced us to be highly selective and keep editing out stuff we dislike; I recently just tossed (to the thrift shop) 2 armchairs I’d owned since ’89 (both bought for very little) and SICK to death of looking at.

      Now it’s empty space. ๐Ÿ™‚ This has been a rough year, so dropping $$$$$ for two new chairs isn’t going to happen soon either.

      You probably do need to select a few things that will inspire you and go from there for a color scheme. That first decision can feel paralyzing.

      Always happy to talk design. I never get to do it either! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. One of the nice things about living in a fairly mild climate is we can eat outdoors pretty much year round. It can get a little chilly in the winter, and buggy in the height of summer, but it is something that I have always enjoyed. What I like best is having my first cup of coffee on the porch watching the sun rise over the mountains. I am a morning person, while my wife is not, so I let her sleep.

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