Sunday, May 30, 2010

More Inspiration

So, I've been obsessing over images of rural and coastal homes, compiling and laying them out to describe, visually, what I dream of our cottage turning into someday.  In mood, style and energy.  

Somehow I stumbled upon The New Victorian Ruralist, a blog assembled by the owners of an antique shop (Finderskeepers Market) in Kentucky.  It's not dissimilar to myleshenryblog, but with a decidedly old world slant.  While I described Myles' blog as masculine and ultra-American, Randy and James over at Ruralist seem drawn to darker and naturally-older interiors more common in Europe.  That said, I still seem drawn to the light and bright images on their site, though this time with more colour.  Watery, calming, soothing tones of blue and green.  Lots of white.  Tactile and aged.  Comforting.  

(All images from The New Victorian Ruralist.)

Inspiration Station

In discussing the decorative changes we'd like to make to our cottage over the next several decades, Jeff asked me to put together a proper source board - Like they do on TV!  But who needs bristol board and glue sticks when you've got the internet and Photoshop.   

The vast majority of these images were pulled from myleshenryblog.  I've alerted you to him before, and stand by the recommendation.  His blog falls into that curatorial, image-bomb category, almost like a look into his brain, a culmination of all the things that he loves, that inspire him.  And I just love his aesthetic - Americana, yacht club, shabby, raw, textural, masculine, vintage, a bit battered, worn-in, well-loved, cozy.  Upcountry.  Classic and clean.  The Hamptons.  East coast.  

So, of course, not every aspect of each shot is something I want for our cottage - But flip through and get a sense of what I want for our home-away-from-home.  The vibe is perfectly encapsulated.  I snagged all the images in a very guttural way, then edited.  It seems, unbeknownst to me, there's a real lack of colour in my mind's eye.  I find the warm whites, wood tones and black accents a perfect counter to all that exists up north - It's a colourful place, so why F with it?  When you get out of the city, you tend to notice things like natural light.  Throughout the day, several beautiful colour-washes wrap everything, so a neutral base allows you to enjoy the warmth of the sunrise, the sparkle of midday and the coolness that falls at night. 

(Apologies for a lack of image-sourcing.  I'm a terrible blogger.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Small and Cool: The Book

Apartment Therapy released their Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces on May 11th.

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, the founder of AT (and regular contributer to the HGTV show Small Space, Big Style) has become a leader in the design world, in part due to his ipso-facto expertise in tiny homes.  For four years he and his wife (and their baby!) shared a 265-square-foot Manhattan apartment - So he knows what he's talking about.  His website has become something of a Bible in the design-blogosphere and has expanded to include sister-sites revolving around food (The Kitchn), green living (re-nest), techie stuff (Unplggd) and kidstuff (ohdeedoh).  Each is a great resource - I find myself regularly searching the archives for tips and tricks on everything you can imagine.

I received a copy of the book for participating in their Small, Cool 2010 contest.  I didn't think "International" applicants were allowed to win anything, so this was a terrific surprise! 

The book is great, filled with beautiful photos and small-space ideas out the whazoo.  I can't wait to take it to the cottage and spend some gin-soaked afternoons perusing its pages.  

Thanks, Apartment Therapy!  You can get your copy here!

Friday, May 28, 2010

And None of Those Pesky Subscription Inserts!

With the death of several universally-adored shelter magazines, the publishing world is obviously changing.  Glossy periodicals are expensive to produce, and in an increasingly-online world, it seems publishers can't keep them going.  A Darwinian shame, certainly, but also an opportunity to change the game.

Last fall, Lonny Magazine became the new kid on the world-wide-block, launching the best online magazine I've seen.  In their mission they say with freedom from page limits, they can share more content in each issue, delivering an intimate look into the way people live.  And how!  There are supersized features of real-life homes (big and small!) great products, green initiatives, DIY's, recipes and more.  Lonny makes the notion of an online magazine a fantastic reality.  The bonus?  The clickable links buried within each ad and editorial allowing you to shop while you flip the pages: marketing genius!

Below are some gorgeous "tear sheets" from Lonny's fourth issue (April/May 2010) featuring Ashley Putman's 3250 square-foot 1940s Georgian home in Houston.  Twenty-six pages of every room in the house - You'd never find that in a conventional magazine.

Putman's bold use of colour, scale and texture are the draw - Rich and deep, a beautiful example of how important contrast is to interior design.  The blue dining room with its oversized armchairs at each end of the table, quirky throw cushions throughout, a surprisingly bright and spare kitchen, and one of the most beautiful wing chairs I've ever seen, nestled beside an equally gorgeous glossy black fireplace mantle.  

What a dream.  Check out Lonny Magazine for more of Putman's home and lots of other goodies.

(All images courtesy of Lonny Magazine.)

What's Your Beef?

It seems there's been a spike in the anti-meat movement.  The blogs are abuzz with all the reasons why we shouldn't eat it, and they're all entirely correct.  We've all seen Food Inc., and I totally get it.  There's almost nothing good about the way (most) meat is bred, fed, raised, processed, stored, sold or eaten. 

The pendulum is definitely swinging toward a more ethical approach to North American food production and consumption, and not only where meat is concerned.  We aim to turn back time, to the days when you'd eat only what was available to you, what came from the farm down the road or the butchershop in town.  It wasn't an option to eat bananas from Ecuador or feedlot beef from Texas.  Then came trucks and trains and airplanes, bringing us our every (misguided) desire. 

Our grandparents' generation was blindsided by the convenience food of the 1950s, so they fed it to our parents and started us down a dangerous path.  I mean, it wasn't their fault, it was marketed and presented as the future of food and seemed the right way to go.  Then the world got a whole lot smaller and we could get ground beef from somebody other than Joe Butcher, at a tiny fraction of the cost. 

Then things went bananas.  Populations skyrocketed, we became McDonald's-dependent, and our "food" started coming from government-friendly mega-conglomerates.  We abdicated all of our personal responsibility.  Whoops.  Now we want it back.

And so instead of canned vegetables and TV dinners, we're buried in a sea of buzzwords: organic, local, free-range, pesticide-free, local, 100-mile, blah blah blah.  All fine and well, but what does it all mean?  Often, nothing, unfortunately, and the onus is really on the individual to make decisions that suit them.

Imagine that.

The fundamental problem is that we've given up nearly every juicy ounce of our decision-making power where food is concerned.  What were we thinking?  So here we are attempting to turn back the hands of time, Little House on the Prairie-style.  We fancy ourselves 100-mile experts and feel haughty with organic eggs in our grocery cart, a trip to the farmer's market pushing us to the front of the Great and Thoughtful Citizen pack.  But I can't help but feel like we're not in control of these decisions either.  We're a bandwagonning people, and this is just another angle. 

So I've decided to keep eating meat.  I like it.  I do.  A New York Striploin is one of the great gifts you can give your mouth.  But have I become more thoughtful of where I buy it?  Yes, mostly because I want a good steak, not something on a Styrofoam tray nestled amongst plastic grass.  Do I still turn a blind eye to certain realities because I'm not quite prepared to spend $35 on one steakSuuuuure.  But we're getting there, one so-called-organic-egg at a time.  And as long as I spend a few thoughtful minutes considering the things I ingest, even if I sometimes make the wrong decision, I'm okay with it.  I mean, how self-righteous can I be when Doritos regularly pass my lips?

So, if I have a point, it might be this: Do what you want, people, but do it with enough integrity to say you did it on purpose

(I love a veggie trio on the BBQ.  These reusable tin trays make anything grillable, doused in olive oil, minced garlic, shallots and ginger, and roasted in the smoke of a delicious steak.  Flavour bomb.  Mmm.)

In Canada we have a holiday called Victoria Day - It celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria, but, over time has morphed into a BBQing, lake-dipping, sunset-booze-cruising-with-cheeseplate kickoff to summer.  The further north you get, the shorter this precious season is, so our May 2-4 (two-four, like a case of beer.  The shame!) is a pretty serious national institution.

Naturally this long weekend comes with high weather expectations, and this year was one for the record books. Sunny and 30°C meant we could actually go in the lake, spread ourselves out on the dock to get a little sun, and sleep comfortably, that nagging chill gone from the air.

But it wasn't all fun, games and fig compote.

We had plans to upgrade the dreary grey on the doors and shutters to a bright cobalt blue, something nautical and masculine.  Then I looked around.  Everything in sight is either blue or green - I figured Mother Nature had given us enough of those colours, so it struck me: red!

Now, let me be clear: I'm no red fan.  Accent walls and atrocious middle-American dens with chunky leather sofas, no thanks.  But I can get behind something with enough orange in it.  We hit up a Rona store en route to the cottage and snagged a gallon of latex enamel in Cheyenne Red (a shade similar to the Canadian flag) and two lovely Muskoka slammers (as they're known).  The original plan was to get a pretty classic wooden door - You know the type: spindly and ornate, a large oval cut out of its midsection.  Then I saw the "Prairie" design and knew it was perfect.  Clean lines, a little Craftsman, and more suited to our 50s-era cottage.  And for $89, it was a no-brainer.  

I'm thrilled with the results.  Now our cottage has a personality, the one with the red doors.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Regression Art Therapy and the Circle of Life

Anybody who's ever had a hankering for photography knows about that weird desire to shoot things with a long lens, depth-of-field next-to-none.  Like an artsy teen with his first camera, there's something about looking through a 300mm lens, twisting its focusing ring, all the planes of view coming in and out of view.

If you get close enough to something (a twig or a fuzzy mound of moss) you might get a scant half-inch of sharpness, the rest falling off into a total blur, a simple wash of colour.  Somehow these kind of photos were always the most satisfying, when learning how you want to take photos.

Once in a blue moon I'll strap on a long lens and get my wide-open-aperture on.  It's a particularly fun exercise this time of year, the colours their brightest, snappy like the universally-overlooked Spring Green in a box of Crayola crayons.

So forgive me while I indulge in a bit of Community Centre Art Class wankery below.

But (if you're squeamish) skip the last photo.  I couldn't resist, for some morbid reason, taking a photo of two little birds whose nest had fallen from under the eave of our outhouse.  Their little hearts couldn't stand the fall, let alone the landing.  A Springtime reality, though sad and surprisingly jarring.  Somewhere on the fringes of our property, hours north of here, a chickadee, once a mother, is mourning.