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Naturally Neutral

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Mar 17, 2011

If you’ve been following this series, you’ve likely noticed that I'm a great proponent of using colour and pattern in unexpected ways for maximum impact. That doesn’t mean that sometimes a tone on tone neutral scheme is just what the doctor ordered.
Naturally Neutral

I’ve spent more than a decade developing a signature look that is focused on creating restful retreats that blend timeless style references with modern influences. While I love to play with new ideas and experiment with never-tried combinations, I fully understand the comfort and sensibility of playing it safe.

If daring and edgy design schemes are your idea of scary, then I suggest you stick with the classics, dress your room in the never fade glory of silvery light neutrals, and sleep easy knowing that you’ll not need to revamp any time soon!

Lay On The Linen

Once you’ve decided to go natural and neutral, might as well go the distance and incorporate a healthy dose of my all-time favourite colourless standby – linen! The nubbly weave, earthy texture, and timeless classic appeal pure linen infuses luxury and sophistication in an understated fashion.It looks better wrinkled, and comes in varying weights from handkerchief to heavy. For this room I found linen stitched with a whimsical motif of a birds footprint, embroidered with trees, and even embellished with polka dots.

Be A Bargain Hunter

Great style doesn’t have to come with a big price tag and no one loves a great deal more than yours truly! But here’s the trick – the best deals usually come with a challenge. In order to score the bargain, you need to be able to look beyond some sort of flaw, and this is where your imagination needs to kick in.

After all, if it were in “take me home” perfect condition, the price tag would no longer seem so appealing, would it? Call me an optimist at the core, but it’s the rags to riches, ugly duckling to elegant swan effect that always gets me when I'm combing our favourite haunts for vintage treasures.I’m compelled to have that inner monologue where I challenge myself to dream up how I could make this piece, that piece, any piece better with a coat of paint, some fresh upholstery, and a healthy dose of TLC.

Naturally Neutral

Break The Rules

Some say never put the bed under the window. I say put the bed wherever it looks best, and in the location that helps you make the best use of all the space you have to work with. The window in this particular room was nothing special to write home about – just an average sized, average quality suburban home slider with a sill that sat too far off the floor for my liking, so I wanted to dress around the window in a way that made a better visual statement.

Now, you walk directly into the room and are drawn directly to the view of the bed, the sky beyond and the entire vista is surrounded by sumptuous silk drapes. I say that if the rules of design aren’t working for you…break them! An added bonus of the bed relocation was that we also managed to sneak a pair of lounge chairs into the scenario, fulfilling our goal of adding comfort and plush touches to the scheme.

Give It A Wash

Next time you’re debating which shade of brown to choose for your hardwood floors, why not go in an altogether different direction? Forget trying to mimic mahogany or walnut and take a page from the greyed or whitewashed tones of the Gustavian influence? I was aiming for a room that would be serene, restorative and whisper soft on all surface, so I deliberately shied away from any dark-wood accents.

The floors only cost $900 to refinish, yet look brand new! Thinking of trying a whitewash technique at home? When selecting the right stain tone, I suggest you choose a colour with a touch of grey in it so you get a bleached or pickled look, and not a throwback to Blanche, Dorothy and Rose on the Golden Girls! (trust me, I speak from experience here – if you apply white stain over a red oak floor, you get…peach!)

Naturally Neutral

The Save

Where do I start? Everything in this room was a deal, but there are a few real steals that certainly helped pull off champagne style on a beer budget. The bench at the foot of the bed was a whopping $25 (and no beauty), but thanks to a fresh coat of shiny white paint, and re-upholstered embroidered linen inserts, this ugly duckling became a functional and fresh addition to the room. The headboard was $95 and got the same treatment as the bench (a touch of paint, a bit of fabric, and voila – a luxe look for less!).

The Splurge

Every room that is built on good deals and get it for less savvy needs a special touch to elevate the finished room beyond garage sale chic. I’ve long been a fan of a feature wall of either paint or wallpaper to make a singular bold statement on one wall, but in this case I felt more was more. If you’re working in a quiet palette, why not surround yourself in an all-over treatment of delicate pattern? With a fibrous texture reminiscent of a paper bag and a block printed white branch pattern, the end effect is evocative of a woodland dream scene.

The Signature Sarah

I embrace a certain amount of symmetry in everything I design, but then I need to let other areas be more unexpected and unstructured. There’s no rule that says your mirror must be centred above your dresser for the most impactful effect. When working with a long dresser, I actually prefer to hang the mirror off to one side. This offset placement allows you to dress one side of the piece with storage accessories and accents, while keeping the other side pristine with just the mirror in place for practical purposes.

Naturally Neutral


Wallpaper - Thibaut Fabrics & Wallpaper www.thibautdesign.com | Headboard – Guff guffonline.blogspot.com | Fabric on headboard & large bed pillows- inVU Drapery Company www.invudraperyco.com | Custom pillow sewing - Wesley Seto Design Inc. 416.538.3223 | Pair of chairs & pair of white mirrors – Chatelet www.chatelethome.com | Bench & bedside tables - Captains Treasures www.captainstreasures.biz | Custom mirror tops on bedside tables - Adanac Glass www.adanacglass.com | Upholstery of all furniture - Silva Custom Furniture www.silvacustom.com | Fabric for drapes, pair of chairs, bed skirt & long bed pillow - Designer Fabrics www.designerfabrics.ca | Throw - ELTE Carpet www.elte.com | Sheets, duvet, bed pillows & custom pillow inserts - Dreams Bed, Bath & Home Décor 416.596.8489 | Side table & faux bamboo mirror- Around the Block www.aroundtheblock.com | Ceramic peacock & small glass ball vases - Urban Barn www.urbanbarn.com | Vintage mirrored tray - Grr8 Finds 705.887.4778 | Dresser- Patina Antiques Inc. 416.862.8880 | Area rug - West Elm www.westelm.com | Bedside lamps – Bronze 416.913.6545 | Custom lampshades - Lampshades Unlimited 416.299.3113 | Photography - Canvas Gallery www.canvasgallery.ca | Framing of art - Elgin Picture & Frame www.elginpictureandframe.com | Refinishing of hardwood floors - Accurate Hardwood Flooring Inc. www.accuratehardwoodflooring.ca | Bookends, silver leaf tray & wicker basket - Absolutely Inc. www.absolutelyinc.com | Barnacles & white leaf dish - L'atelier 416.966.0200 | Pair of crystal candle holders – Eclectisaurus www.eclectisaurus.com | Mother of pearl decorative boxes- Pottery Barn www.potterybarn.com | Paint Colours - Para Paint www.para.com www.sarahpaint.com Ceiling - Gown SR9 (P5195-24) Trim - Snowfall SR29 (P5223-14D)

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