Holiday Hostess Gifts (that aren’t flowers, wine or chocolates!)

 

You know what I love more than entertaining at the holidays? Going to someone else’s house for the holidays! Of course I’m a super helpful guest – I clear the table, wash dishes, serve the dessert, eat the dessert, you get the picture. I also try never to show up empty handed. Every great hostess, and even the not so great ones, deserve a small token of your gratitude for serving, feeding, entertaining and cleaning up after you.  I consulted a few of my vintage etiquette books and found that both Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt agree that giving a hostess gift is an absolute necessity; although their suggestion of poultry shears, pencil sharpeners or ashtrays should be ignored.

Here instead are some unique, Canadian made and better-than-an-ashtray gift ideas for your favourite host.

Instead of wine (but not entirely instead of, because, it’s wine)

Dillon’s Bitters

Help your host whip up a batch of the best cocktails, hopefully, which you will help her drink.

Kingston Olive Oil Infused Oils

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Not everyone enjoys receiving wine as a gift, (at least this is what I’ve been told) but if you must give a cylindrical shaped glass vessel filled with liquid then I suggest a good quality olive oil. Butter flavour is one of my favourites. Paired with with a box of unpopped popcorn, this is a perfect gift for a host to use after everyone has left and she can finally relax and binge watch Stranger Things.

Instead of candles (pretty sure no one needs another scented candle)

Keep House Studio Tea Towels

Modern, fun and vibrant- let’s hope 2018 is as great as this towel.

G & T Design Screen Printed Cocktail Napkins

Perfectly sized for appetizers or for using after everyone have gone and your host is ugly eating leftover cheesecake (or am I the only one who does this?)

Instead of chocolates (but buy them anyways, I’ll help you eat them)

Down East Coffee

This coffee is so good we drove 30 minutes out of the way from the cottage we were staying in New Brunswick everyday just to get it.

Tea Leaf Co.

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If you don’t know your host well, organic herbal tea from this adorable Toronto company is a good choice. Tea says “here’s a thoughtful gift I think you’ll like” and definitely not “we picked this up from the gas station on the way here”.

Instead of flowers (you’re already expecting to be given a drink, don’t bring a gift that requires one too)

Double L Decor Geometric Sphere 

These trendy, modern cement succulent planters don’t require a green thumb to keep them looking good.

Aspen Blue Co Doormat

Even when your host isn’t home this cute doormat can give a cheerful greeting to everyone from the mail carrier to the milkman (oops, I mean the Amazon delivery guy).

These thoughtful and unexpected gifts will ensure a repeat invitation and may even get you out of helping with the dishes!

 

Favourite Fall Trends

I know we’re well into fall so this is kind of like cheating. I totally could have just googled this stuff so you’ll have to trust that I actually collected these trends myself by reading heaps of shelter magazines, scouring my favourite decorating websites and endlessly scrolling through Instagram. But I did it for all of you, and my sincere dedication to report on the latest trends in home fashion and definitely not because I’m a teeny bit obsessed and would have done all this whether I had a blog post to write or not!

Colour

My favourite trend of this season- the return of colour! Have you heard that it’s okay to paint your walls with colour again? It’s true. Benjamin Moore’s 2018 Color of the Year is Caliente. (It’s impossible to even say the name of the colour without sounding excited!) It’s a terrifically warm red that plays nice with blues, yellows and even greens.

More great saturated hues for your home:


Dark browns are also making a comeback. The lesson here is don’t be shy with your paint choices.

Wabi-Sabi is the new Hygge.

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese idea of embracing natural and imperfect beauty. Organically shaped pottery, timeworn housewares and anything that has more sentimental than monetary value could be called wabi-sabi. What I love about this philosophy is that it celebrates the things that tell a story, your story. Each chipped cup, worn quilt or even deep wrinkle comes with a story of how it found its way to you.

Texture

Whether it’s a plush velvet sofa, a rough wicker chair or even the natural unevenness of rustic handmade tiles, this season it’s all about the feels.

Anthropologie gets bonus points for the vintage vibe of this dusty rose velvet chair and the snake shaped sofa.

Not only is this armchair from IKEA made of on-trend wicker, it’s matte black, which is also having a moment.

I know there’s so much to love in this kitchen but try to stay focused on the gorgeous terracotta tiles.

Embracing the “previously loved”

It’s okay to admit that you picked up that incredible desk from the side of the road. Got that antique vase at a garage sale? Awesome! It seems like every house featured in decor magazines today are showing off at least one fabulous thrifted find front and centre. I’m crying tears of joy over this! My love for thrifted, used and found stuff runs deep. Besides saving money and the environment, many reproductions of vintage and classic items just don’t have the same feel as the originals.

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If you aren’t sure this trend is for you, start small. Try a well curated consignment shop before diving head first into the pay-by-the-pound bins at your local Goodwill Outlet. Kijiji and Craigslist are both great online sites where you can pick up deals on furniture and home goods.

Florals

While florals never really fade from home fashion, their colours and size change from season to season. This year pretty flowers in big colours will be everywhere.

While all these trends may be beautiful, they shouldn’t dictate what we buy or display but rather inspire us, and point to new possibilities beyond what we already know.

Happy hunting!

A 1980’s Kitchen Makeover Part 1

In 1987, my parents kitchen was quite fashionable. It looked like so many of my friend’s kitchens when I was growing up. With its warm honey oak cabinets and brass accents it was the first stop on the house tour of our newly built home. 30 years later it’s still the heart of the house and you’ll still find everyone’s favourite shortbread cookies in the cookie jar. But it’s time for a change and a bit more than the small updates that have taken place over the years; wallpaper and paint colours have come and gone, and in the last 10 years new flooring and countertops. My parents are content with the cabinets and don’t feel the need to paint them. The renovator in me would love to rip it all out so I really have to restrain myself on this one! The cabinets stay along with the floors and countertop. Really, where’s the fun in that?

Here’s what the kitchen looks like now:

And here’s what I’m planning:

Paint the walls and ceiling in Benjamin Moore’s China White or Edgecomb Gray. This room doesn’t get a lot of natural light so many of the past paint choices have ended up looking pink rather than greige. Since the lighting in this space is tricky I’ve picked two colours and we’ll see what looks best on the walls. Always, always, always sample your paint colours and look at them in the space in different light at different times of day. I’ve avoided so many bad paint choices this way.

Creamy off-white subway tile. There’s already lots happening in the countertops and the cabinets so I want to keep the backsplash quiet. No one wants their backsplash to scream at them as they walk in the kitchen, especially first thing in the morning before coffee!

Black accessories:

While brass and gold accents are back in a big way right now, they only make the cabinets look more yellow here. Every room needs at least a small dose of black and I’m excited about these pulls from IKEA.

The only demo I get to do is to take down the fluorescent strip light over the sink and put up this handsome guy from Wayfair.

There’s a counter with space for stools along one side of the kitchen. These Mary Kate barstools from Wayfair still have a traditional feel but in modern way.

Right now the overhead light is a classic 80’s ceiling fan with gold accents and inlaid caning. The glass shades are frosted and scalloped. So this is high on the list to replace. I’m thinking a semi flush mount light, maybe something like this one.

I like the handmade pottery feel of these canisters from Target in the US.

Or these vintage beauties from Etsy.

And lastly, a good runner to keep mom’s feet cozy when whipping up my favourite chocolate chip cookies (I’m such a brat!)

This one is from IKEA and is only $50. I’m not a fan of paying big bucks on rugs that take a lot of wear and tear and may only be around for a few years. Kitchen runners can get especially gross, and with 5 grandkids running around this one is sure to see it’s share of sticky, gooey messes.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress. I’m hoping to tick this project off the list before Christmas.

 

Podcast Episode 6: Andrea Haraldsen of Harlow & Thistle

On the podcast this week I’m talking with Andrea Haraldsen. Andrea is the  creative force behind the popular blog, Harlow & Thistle where this designer and do-it-yourselfer shares her home décor and DIY projects. Her relaxed modern style has a hint of uptown glam that makes her home stand apart. She is also amazingly talented at re-creating high end designs for less. Click the player in the sidebar to hear the interview.

As a three time participant in the One Room Challenge, Andrea knows a thing or two about renovating under pressure. Her living room and laundry room where transformed during this design challenge and she’s currently working on her office.

Here’s a peek at some of Andrea’s favourite DIY projects:

We also chat favourite paint colours. Here’s what tops Andrea’s list:

All this, and great ideas on how to decorate for the holidays. Plus Andrea’s best family-friendly decor tips. Lots of inspiration packed into this episode!

Produced by Valleyway Media by Beth Labelle and Jon Laakso.

For the Love of a Rug

This is a bittersweet story of how we lost our sweet old pup and gained a living room rug. It’s definitely not an equal trade off or one that we planned on, but real life is full of unplanned and unpleasant moments.

In his 13 years with us, our dog Obie, who loved to eat and chew, ruined three area rugs. While ruining carpet was his specialty, he also had a knack for chewing shoes, gobbling up baby socks and making nests from clothes pulled from the laundry pile. He once ate an entire cookbook. He left the coil spine on the kitchen floor as proof he did it. Ironically, there was nothing he loved more than laying on carpet, but since he had eaten most of ours this was something he didn’t get to do very often. He would find even the smallest scatter rug or bath mat and curl himself up on it. Then he’d try to eat it. Which is why we’ve found ourselves without a living room rug for the past 2 years. A few weeks after Obie died, my husband said to me “I guess we can look for a living room rug now.” We both got teary-eyed at the memory of him and how he would have loved a new carpet!

I had recently worked on a project where we ordered rugs from Rugs USA. This was my first time buying carpet online and it was a great experience. The pictures of the rugs are very clear and true to life so what you see online is what you get. We looked here first and found exactly what we wanted. We live close to the border so I was able to take advantage of a great sale with free shipping and had it delivered to our U.S. mailbox. I know there are Canadian sites that sell rugs but I haven’t found the selection and price  comparable – even with the exchange.

I love our new rug and I know if Obie were here he would too. He would also be trying to eat it!  Often, as I walk through the room, I think of him and how much he would have enjoyed it and this brings a smile to my face.

Podcast Episode 5: Jesse Lauzon

If you love great Instagram feeds, then you probably already follow Jesse Lauzon (@jesselauzon) who features gorgeous photos of his extensive antique collections with hilarious captions and a more-is-more attitude that inspires his multitude of followers. If you aren’t following Jesse, you will be after hearing this episode of the podcast.

Here are some of Jesse’s stunning collections:

Learn Jesse’s tips for photographing antiques and how to make photo-worthy vignettes. Plus he answers the question whether or not he will ever have a snow globe collection!

As promised these are Ham Stands. They apparently hold ham.

And these vintage ramekins are perfect for Onion Custard. See Jesse’s recipe below.

ONION CUSTARD

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 c. finely chopped yellow onions
  • ¼ tsp. herbes de Provence
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1½ c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium skillet, melt butter. Add yellow onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper, and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with half-and-half, then stir in onion mixture. Divide evenly among six 4-ounce ramekins or oven-safe pottery cups. Place in a large baking pan with 2-inch sides. Pour enough boiling water in pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins and transfer to oven. Bake until custards are just set, about 30 minutes. Remove dishes from hot water bath. Serve custards warm.

You’ll have to listen to the show to hear the story of this beautiful painted canvas.

All this, and the heartbreaking tale of how he was betrayed by someone in his own family over a sentimental collection. This one is definitely worth a listen!

A huge thanks to Jesse for being on the show. This one was so much fun. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Happy hunting (and listening!)

Podcast produced by Valleyway Media 

IKEA Favourites

Some people mark the transition from summer to fall by the weather or the calendar. For me, its the arrival of the IKEA catalogue. I’m always so excited to pore through the pages to discover what’s new. This year’s offerings did not disappoint. I feel IKEA has really expanded their range and there’s something for everyone, no matter your personal style. Whether your look is farmhouse, boho, modern, Scandi or even traditional, I know you’ll find something in the store to fall in love with, even if it’s just the cinnamon buns.

Always the overachiever, I found 11 things that I love.

1. STRANDMON wing chair in dark green. Embracing the updated 90’s forest green trend.

2. FJÄDRAR inner cushion. Not exactly the most exciting product on this list, but at only $8.00, these chubby, feather-filled inserts will make your throw cushions look and feel more expensive.

3. FABRIKÖR glass-door cabinet. Packed with all the charm of a vintage medical cabinet, plus it’s available in blue or gray.

4. ODGER chair. This one almost didn’t make the cut, but its interesting design and sustainable materials put it over the top.
5. STOCKHOLM 2017 cabinet. A lovely rattan wrapped cabinet that sadly isn’t available in Canada yet.
6. KALLAX wire basket. The Kallax shelving series finally get an update with these warm, brass baskets.
7. SKUGGIS hook. These modern floating hooks have a handmade, artisan feeling.
8. STOCKHOLM 2017 armchair with cushion. I have some pretty serious feelings for this chair.
9. FJÄLLBO shelf unit. Even IKEA is embracing modern rustic. I think this shelf has lots of potential and could be painted to change the feel of it.
10. MÖCKELBY bench. Benches are so versatile – use it as a coffee table, display shelf, at the foot of a bed or, you know, to sit on . . .as a bench.
11. STOCKSUND sofa in dark gray. Turned legs and a rolled English arm are the details that will keep this classic sofa looking great for years.

Honorable mentions include SJÖRAPPORT cold smoked salmon, the CHOKLAD NÖT milk chocolate bar with nuts, and of course the cinnamon buns.

Happy Hunting (and shopping!)

 

Canada’s Best Airbnb Rentals

It feels tragic to write this, but summer is almost over. While our summer has been a full season of warm weather goodness, I’m not quite ready for sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. So I’m holding on just a bit longer with a drink on the patio and dreaming about where to go next summer. Here are a few of the most amazing Airbnb rentals cross Canada, located in must-visit places and boasting impressive interiors.

Treehouse Retreat & Cabin Hideaway in Durham, Ontario

A sleepover in a real treehouse – complete with slide! My inner 7-year-old (and my actual 7-year-old daughter) is so excited about this. This property has a treehouse with sleeping and eating areas, and a cabin (on the ground) with another sleeping area and a full kitchen. It looks so dreamy! The grounds also hve a pool that guests can use. This one is high up (I know, I know) on my must-visit list.

Ultimate Modern Escape in Golden BC

If you can’t do modern in your own home, try a getaway to this sleek modern house in the woods of British Columbia. The large cabin in the Canadian Rockies looks breathtaking. The perfect spot to come back to after a day of hiking or skiing. I’m in love with the fireplace and the wall of stacked wood behind it!

Bàra Tide Tiny House in Sackville, New Brunswick

A tiny house with a tiny price – only $47 a night! This sweet little cabin has everything you need to have a quiet, relaxing getaway . . . except a washroom. There’s a little outhouse behind the tiny house, in the big woods. Small on space but big on style.

Loft Penthouse in Gastown, Vancouver, B.C

I haven’t visited Vancouver yet but when I do I hope the place I stay is as amazing as this. There are panoramic views of trendy Gastown and the mountains from this loft’s floor to ceiling windows and rooftop deck. The photos really say it all.

Blue Caboose-Boston & Maine 491 in Flat River, PEI

This kitschy rental along the shores of beautiful Prince Edward Island is a retired Boston & Maine caboose. While I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not a red CN caboose how much fun would it be to say that you vacationed in a caboose!

Sun Filled Industrial Photo Studio Loft in Toronto, Ontario

A studio loft in the city with a swing in the kitchen! I’m totally smitten with this space. The owners have put a lot of thought into the decor to make it feel creative and warm. While it’s advertised as an ideal location for a photo shoot, I think it’s a great space to recharge after a day of fast-paced city life.

Superhero Loft, Montreal, Quebec 

Montreal is one of my favourite cities and I can’t think a more hip place to return to after spending the day exploring. Packed with loads of orginal art and your very own vintage arcade, the hosts of this space actually encourage guests to throw parties here.

Not quite in Canada Bonus:

Vintage Trailer in Huge Loft, Downtown Los Angeles, California

A vintage trailer parked in an art studio in downtown L.A. The trailer is all cute and cozy on the inside and industrial chic on the outside. The acutal loft is a converted 1918 factory. This space has lots of cool shared spaces like a garden and library with an air hockey table, as well as a working art studio. Plus is has an indoor swing! I imagine I would feel way cooler than I actually am if I stayed here.

 

 

 

A Gratitude Filled Giveaway

I have to admit something. When I launched the Hunted & Gathered podcast earlier this year I wasn’t sure it would go anywhere. Would anyone want to be interviewed by me? Who would listen to me prattle on about interior design? So, it was a huge shock when famous designers returned my emails, and even more of a shock when people listened to the show! I’m so filled with gratitude for the people I’ve interviewed (more really great guests are lined up!) and all the people who have listened to the show. If you had told me a year ago that this is what I would be doing now, I’d most definitely laugh at you and tell you’re crazy.

One of my favourite Amy Poehler quotes (she’s awesome and hilarious, so I have lots) is “great people do things before they are ready.” While I don’t think I’m great and maybe not even good yet, I love the idea that in life we have to make a choice and just go for the things we want even when we aren’t ready. When I recorded my first show I had pneumonia, I had to fake my way through the entire thing. Once it was finished I didn’t listen to it for two months. I have amazing friends who encouraged me to keep going. One of these friends is responsible for the technical side of the podcast. He does the editing and makes the show sound like a real thing instead of me just chatting to someone on the phone. I’m incredibly grateful for his skills and guidance.

I wish I could thank each of you personally for listening to the show and for all the sweet comments I’ve received. I’m usually a handwritten-thank-you-note kinda girl but that won’t do in this situation, so I’ve teamed up with my pal from Giftologie to offer you a little giveaway – a set of handmade coasters featuring a vintage Canadian map. I’m thrilled to feature Canadian designers and design on the show so I felt it was only fitting to have a very Canadian themed give-away.

Made of light weight aluminium, these cuties will keep your table safe and are easy to wash.

To enter, leave a comment here                                                                                      or                                                                                                                                               click over to my Instagram account @bethannlabelle and tag me and @giftologie in a post. I’ll annouce the winner next week.

Good luck!

 

5 Summer Sanity Savers

We’re half way through the school summer vacation around here. Which means the kids have settled into a routine of spending their days exploring nature in the fresh air, discovering new books to read and…..no, I can’t even pretend to go on.  It means an endless sink full of dishes and cups; bathing suits laying sopping wet on bedroom floors; and the constant clatter of sisterly love – and by that, I mean fighting. Ugh. The change of routine that I look forward to every year is also the thing that can make the summer the hardest. So, this year we’ve started some warm weather traditions that I hope will help make the house run more smoothly.

1.  While I want my kids to stay hydrated during the sizzling summer days I don’t want to spend the day washing glasses or finding cups in random places around the house. So, each day the kids are assigned a glass with their name on it. This is their glass for the day.

  1. Our glass drink dispenser gets almost constant use during the summer months. Whenever we have company I fill it with ice, water and lots of lemons, limes or seasonal fruit. It looks pretty and it’s an inexpensive way to serve drinks.

I also keep smaller litre sized refillable bottles with flip-top stoppers filled with water in the fridge. This is a small thing but it means that we drink less sugary lemonades and pop and more water or homemade iced tea.

  1. When we renovated the house we overhauled the main floor bathroom because it was disgusting (the shower was a cat’s litter box for starters) and a poor use of space. We removed the shower to make more floor space and this serves as the pool change room as well.

This bathroom is right inside the backdoor so it gets all the pool traffic. It’s all wet feet and drippy bathing suits. We contemplated installing tile here but knew from experience that grout discolors when water sits on it too long and I was concerned with the tile being slippery when wet. So we installed vinyl floor. It’s one solid piece so there are no seams for water to seep into. It’s easy to mop up and there’s no maintenance. It’s no one’s dream floor but it was cheap enough that we won’t feel guilty ripping it out in a few years when the kids and their friends are a bit more responsible.

Recently we (who am I kidding, it wasn’t me, it was all him – I don’t even know where the drill is kept)  installed these handmade wood hooks; perhaps the sight of them will encourage swimmers to hang up their wet bathing suits and towels. So far it’s going well, I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off!

4.  I love the look of white towels in the bathroom. While it makes the room look clean and pulled together, I’ve noticed that my all white towels have started to look grungier in the summer months. It’s like the perma-dirt that doesn’t come clean from the knees of my children have also become embedded in the towels. I’d made it my life’s work to discover the perfect towel – soft, but not too fluffy, absorbent but fast drying. My search ended when I found the Frajen bath towel at IKEA. I was skeptical at first but once I got them home and washed them a few times I was a believer. Plus, they cost only $6.99 and come in a bunch of colours. I love them more than chocolate (just kidding). I bought the grey ones thinking the dirt wouldn’t show – I’m sure it’s still there, I just can’t see it and that’s good enough for me.

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5. This last sanity saver isn’t for the kiddos. Pre-mixed cocktails from the liquor store can be poured into a beautiful glass and presented to your guests as though you made them yourself. Shhh. I promise I won’t tell. I’ll also enthusiastically pretend to be impressed with your bartending skills if you serve me one!

Cheers!