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IDS 08 | Imprinting a new North American lifestyle

upsizing the condo market at ids 08 : shangri-laMy husband saw a homemade flyer in front of the Royal York that was offering a $15,000 reward, no questions asked for returning a dog.

The super luxury housing market emerged over the last six months in Toronto with condo units now listed at 12 million dollars. With money comes experimentation and market differentiation.

An overview of a super luxury market in Toronto

The topic of one design talk at IDS 08 was Upsizing of the condo market: a lifestyle trend. What is happening right now is not just higher priced condominiums. The builders are offering more choices than ever to the consumers.

Some projects offer the freedom to design your unit with architects and designers before it is even built. Many builders hire a team of star architects and designers to make sure their design is well thought.

The average price of those super luxury condos are well over $1000 square feet. They come with a wide range of exclusive boutique hotel kind of services. The monthly fees for the penthouse of the Four Seasons reach about $8000. Well-known architects and designers unite to create stunning projects.

Why it is important for most of us?

Eventually what happens at the top end of the luxury market finds a way to reach a broader market over time? Innovations start at the higher end segment. But now, you can find modern stylish accessories and furniture to fit any budget.

If you know about the latest trends, you can challenge the builders so they will create more design-oriented condominium buildings.

Individual taste

If you read my article on the Top 10 design trends, the general message is that people wish to live in a space that reflects their individual style. In the past, you could only accomplish it by building your own house. That is what my parents always did.

My brother, who lives in a small town, bought a land 6 years ago, got his own plan and managed the construction of his house. All the houses on his street are build the same way. He lives in a street where every house looks different. I think it is time that we stop the super normalization of our city landscape.

Downsizing in square feet but upsizing in style

As more and more of the boomer generation continue to leave their suburban house to live in the smaller urban condominium, the market start to adapt to their demand. To have served them as an event designer, they are more diverse in style than marketers want you to think.

It was also a time when families with young children often refrain to decorate their house to their liking because of they were living with children. And let’s be frank; there were no stylish options for infant gears. This was before the emergence of several modern design baby object company that occurred over the last 5 to 6 years.

Exploring a new lifestyle

A small number of families with children (infants to teenagers) opt for urban living. I do believe that the suburban model is far from perfect. People want a backyard and a pool but it takes them two hours to get home. So they cannot really enjoy it. They cannot go a buy a bottle of milk without taking the car and you hear your neighbors mowing their grass when you want to relax. I know because it happens when I visit my friends.

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation published the revealing 2005 report card. It demonstrated that, on average, the urban residents are healthier and less stressed than the residents of the suburbs. With all the cool specialty stores that you find in the city and the proximity of the convenience, I prefer my urban living.

Learn more: Upsizing of the condo market: a lifestyle trend at the IDS 08
Learn more: Shangri-La Toronto – Kitchen photo
Learn more: Heart and Stroke Foundation 2005 Report Card On Canadians Health Has The Suburban Dream Gone Sour?


IDS 08 | Design: 10 years ago and 10 years from now

ids 10 years of design by Globe & Mail's Lifestyle Section

I went to 4 design talks when visiting the Interior Design Show. Each design talk will be reviewed separately. I am starting with a report on What were the most important trends over the last decade?

The panel animated by Trevor Kruse of Hudson Kruse Design was composed with the design journalists of the Globe & Mail’s Lifestyle Section. We had the pleasure to hear the thoughts of Janice Lindsay, Danny Sinopoli and Karen Von Hahn. Janice Lindsay is the founder of PINK, Colour + Designer.

They did not forecast a lot about the future. It is a wise move since the design styles are evolving at such an increasing rate.

It was a great assessment of what is happening. They assessed that the top 10 design trends that emerged from the last decade and will continue are:

1. Speeding Up

You see it in fashion, where when they used to be 4 collections a year, retailers are bringing new clothes and accessories every week. Fashion has an even bigger role in home design than in the past. It is due to fashion designers who entered the home décor and bed linen business.

2. Eco-design

Like Karen Von Hahn, I believed that eventually people will get tired of the eco-products in the same that marketers overuse the concept by stretching the eco-friendless of their products. Having said that, it does not mean that people will stop wanting eco-friendly products.

But one thing is sure that the eco-design movement changed the motifs and shapes of products. Look at the omnipresence of birds, twigs and trees from wallpapers, bed linens, placemats, dinnerware to invitations as the perfect example.

3. Designer gurus and Star Architects

Big names design everything from simple objects, furniture, home, outdoor rooms, corporate identity, skyboxes, private jets and even cities. The idea is based on being fully immerse in the experience. The separation between disciplines is slowly disappearing.

Philippe Starck and Frank Gehry, brought a whimsical feel to serious design. More on this later.

4. New Ornamentation

This marked the end of the super minimalist. Layering of textures and motifs is one of its expressions. You see it with the use of the damask, furs and bold motifs on simple line products. That is what make them fresh.

5. End of packaged style

Thank God for that one. It is OK to break convention, to make it your own. Making a room is built over time by filling it with things that matter to us. The key is to edit once in a while.

Making an entire French Provencal kitchen, an English style living room, is so passé. We have a creative freedom but at the same time, it is harder to make it right. Eclectic design rules but that does not means that everything goes together. That is why the advice and the input of professionals are still necessary.

6. Wit and Humor

Things can be stylish without being too serious. Furniture and rooms are not seen as precious anymore. We have the freedom to really live in it. You see that fact with many modernists. As they become parents with young children then still live in cool and home.

7. Technological Innovation

Advancement in technology opened the doors to new materials, new manufacturing techniques and affordable customization.

8. Light and Transparency

Gone are the days of one central hanging fixture and a lamp to light a room. Today, we use lighting fixtures as a way to sculpt the space. In fact, you can fill a room by creating shadows at desirable spots.

9. New Cachet of Design Classics

Just look at the popularity of mid-century modern furniture to be convinced. The same vintage look is a clear fashion trend this spring.

Old patterns like toile and damask are so in demand. The current Damask motif looks modern because the motif is oversized. Computers brought a new life to old motifs.

10. A Canadian Aesthetic

We have seen an emergence of a new Northern aesthetic that distinct us. They are several regional movements across Canada on style but three characteristics is shared by Canadian design:

  • sustainability,
  • experimentation and
  • warmth and humor.

I enjoyed listening to Janice Lindsay, Danny Sinopoli, Karen Von Hahn and Trevor Kruse. More reports on the Interior Design Show 2008 in Toronto are coming on the next days. See you then!


Absinthe is Back in Style

absinthe service accessories : imbibe magazine : lucid absinthe superieure

Now that genuine Absinthe is back to the United States, the stylish entertainers have to learn how to serve this herbal alcohol concoction.

My husband’s cousin told me about a bar in Boston where they served Absinthe by dripping iced water with a stylish Absinthe Fountain. It intrigued me since I only saw and tasted the unfashionable sugar on fire method before (a no-no). So I was glad to grab an issue of Imbibe this week that made it clear to me.

Now that I am in the know, I will give you the scoop on how to properly serve absinthe to your guests. The few required tools bring back the art of formal entertaining, a decorum that is missing today. Do not be intimidated by this more elaborate service. Instead, think about it as producing a show, living an adventure for you and your guests.

What is Absinthe?

Absinthe, like pastis, is served as an aperitif. Both drinks have a strong anise (licorice) flavor.

The difference between absinthe and pastis is mostly in the alcohol level – absinthe has lots more – and the used herbal compositions. Pastis is also sweeter. Anise, fennel, lemon balm, hyssop and grande wormwood gives absinthe its distinctive taste. The fresh herbs macerate first and then are distilled.

The alcohol level ranges from 53 to 72%. Contrary to the myth, absinthe produces no hallucinating effects.

The Art of Serving Absinthe

In the old days, the service ritual contributes to the appeal of absinthe. Basically, you dissolve and dilute the absinthe in the glass using a sugared water. Several techniques can be used for slowly dripping iced water on a sugar cube positioned on a perforated spoon.

As you add the water, the pale emerald Absinthe will louche into a clouded opalescent liquid. The sugar is totally a matter of taste. The louche effect is created by the water, not the sugar. I encourage you to taste both ways. In fact, the need for sugar varies per brand. If you try a new brand, try it without sugar first or ask the waiter for advice. Use your Absinthe spoon to dissolve any remaining sugar.

The Tools

The typical recipe calls for three parts water per part of absinthe. You serve one part of absinthe in heavy glassware, often a short stem glass. Specialty stores sell absinthe glasses but any glasses by French maker La Rochere can do. The glasses have a very French country. Arthur Quentin in Montreal carries a large selection of La Rochere glassware.

You can find beautifully crafted perforated spoons that are reproductions of the early 20th century classic spoons. My favorite ones are the Feuille No. 2 Absinthe Spoon and the Toulouse-Lautrec Absinthe Spoon available at Absinthe Devils.

For a fancier look, go for the Art Deco sugar jar. Otherwise, it is time to display your silverware. Grab the silver sugar bowl with sugar tongs from your formal English tea set.

Two gracious techniques

Like I said, they are several service techniques. The most sophisticated look is definitely the Absinthe Fountain. You can buy one with two or four spigots; four is best for parties. Stock one absinthe spoon per guest plus a few extra. Place the perforated spoons in a jar until ready to serve.

Many stores sell replicas of period fountains online. Ask questions regarding the materials and dimensions before you buy because they used the same names but they are all necessary made by the same manufacturers.

Another method is the brouilleur. It is cute but can be noisy. The mechanical aspect will appeal to men. You would not need the perforated spoon if you prefer the brouilleur. Many models were designed from the simplest to the complex. A very charming option is the famous Auto Verseur originally made for Cusenier with its small see-saw to control the dripping water. Silver-plated replicas are available online. I found one at a store named Absinthe Spoon.

If you are not ready to commit yet, there is a low cost solution called the Glass in a Glass method. Basically, you place a shot glass inside an empty Absinthe glass. Fill a small carafe with iced cold water. Then let drip the fresh water, drop by drop, on the absinthe. You can still use the

What brands to taste?

Beware of imitations. Made sure you buy a genuine absinthe. If you never taste it before Lucid, Absinthe Supérieure, a brand sold in the United States, is a good choice for beginners.

The Swiss made Kübler Absinthe Superieure, comes from the Val-de-Travers where absinthe was invented in the late 19th century. First produced in 1863, Kübler Absinthe Superieure contains coriander, mint, anise and fennel among other herbs and botanicals.

If you wish to encourage a Canadian brand that produces genuine Absinthe from an old fruit-based spirits and top-quality herbs, try Tabou Absinthe (not too confused with Tabu) from Okanagan Spirits.

Setting up an Absinthe Station

At your next dinner party, I suggest you serve Absinthe for the apéro. Prepare in advance a station in your lounging area with everything you need. Pay attention to how you organize the tools. Before your give them their drinks, take the time to explain how it works to your guests. Capture their attention and start the mingling.

Learn more: Lucid Absinthe Supérieure
Buy online: Absinthe Sugar Cube Holder
Buy online: Silver-plated Cusenier “See Saw” Brouilleur Replica – price: 39 £
Buy online: Toulouse-Lautrec Absinthe Spoon – price: $10.95 USD
Buy online: Absinthe Fountain Chat IV – price: $149.95 USD
Buy online: Absinthe Fountain Chat IV (little bit smaller with plastic spigots) – price: $110 USD
Via: Imbibe magazine – January / February 2008 issue


Treats for Valentine’s Day | Tastespotting watch

valentine treats on tastespotting

If you are still looking for inspiration to compose your mini menu on Valentine’s Day, I spotted some pretty romantic recipes on Tastespotting.

Start or end the day with a Hot Chocolate

If you are in New York City this February, schedule a stop at for their famous Hot Chocolate Festival. I wrote it down on my itinerary. Daily flavors are offered on top of the regular blend.

Today, it’s Darkest Dark Hot Chocolate. On the 14th, it’s the Love Potion Hot Chocolate. While a Caramel Hot Chocolate and Chili Pepper Hot Chocolate will be served on February 16th and the 17th respectively. The City Bakery sells its hot chocolates in a shot size at $2 but you can savor a full-sized cup for $4.50. Add 50 cents for a marshmallow.

Otherwise, make your own hot chocolate by melting small pieces of fine chocolate (the darker the better for me) in warmed milk, then sugar and add a dash of vanilla and a cayenne pepper. You can try the Hot Hot Cocoa recipe by Michael Smith.

Inspiration for a meal

For a stress free solution, prepare your favorite food but add an element of surprise in the food presentation. To jazz things up, add one new recipe like this lovely Broccoflower Soup from La Tartine Gourmande.

Cupcakes and sweets

I saw Chef Michael Smith made similar tuxedo chocolate dipped strawberries last week. It looks so easy when done by an expert. You will find on Simply Recipes a step by step guide to make your own.

For desserts, why not serve homemade cupcakes? It is strange for me to say but I do like the way these fondant roses nicely decorate these cupcakes. The technique used seems simple. I guess that crafty beginners can probably give it a try. The rose cupcakes were made by the talented woman behind Bakerella, a blog full of stylish baked goodies.

Otherwise, I find you a simpler cupcake design on The Recipe Girl. In fact, she reproduced a recipes from Better Homes and Garden’s Magazine.

Everything except roses for me

By the way, I do not like roses. My husband knows me well enough to grasp that fact since the beginning of our relationship. He showed originality by giving me divine bouquets other than the trivial red rose dozens on Valentine’s Day or at any other moment. So if you are a man, I suggest you ask your florist for something new this Valentine. Ask for a creative arrangement that reflects the personality of the one you love.

Sourcing on Tastespotting:
Hot chocolate festival spotted by Melinda2
Luscious chocolate strawberries spotted by spunpuppy
Broccoflower Soup spotted by GingerbreadGirl03
Bakerella’s cupcakes for Valentine spotted by GingerbreadGirl03
Red Velvet Cupcakes spotted by RecipeGirl


I secretly dream of a clutter free home

clutter control at home : canadian house and home march 2008

The March 2008 issue of Canadian House & Home magazine is about clutter control. What I like about that issue is that it does not claim that it is the only way to live.

The decoration magazines are in part responsible for this trend because we all inspire to live in the beautiful styled rooms that we see in the magazines. If you entertain a lot, living in an uncluttered house definitely makes your life simpler since it cuts down the cleaning time.

What is the appeal?

There is something wonderfully charming about living well with less stuff. Even the garage looks chic when all the tools are beautiful displayed on painted green slatwall units. You have more time for yourself once it is done because you do not waste time searching for things. Let’s be frank, the average house is large enough that we do not have to let go of comfort and luxury.

I am proud of my cupboards. My kitchen is neatly organized. If I could transfer this habit to the rest of the house, it would be marvelous. It is not that I am attached to my old stuff. It is just that I lack the time. And after living more than a decade in the same house, I have accumulated too much stuff. I purged once in a while but I never done my entire house in a single spree.

Why it is not as easy as it seems on TV?

First, you need to shop for these pretty organizing boxes, coordinating baskets, upscale files and color paper tags. You need to figure out how much you need of everything. You need to rethink your furniture and the room design. Nobody knocks at your door with all the storage accessories you need pre-calculated for your space.

One difficulty is to have all the family members participate in the purging at the same time. But maybe we can only schedule a time frame and all do it at one time. Since we can rarely dedicate a few full days to the task, we should allocate a longer period to do it. As long as we see the end, any method will do.

What is next?

The big purging and organizing thing is just the tips of the iceberg. You need to follow through afterwards. The advice that each time you buy something new, you should get rid of something you own is a good habit. That is my latest habit on the kitchen. Something I cheat and I find a way to store things better. Spring is coming, so I start with the big purging this year. I want to live in a clutter free house like in the magazine.

Photo credits: Canadian House & Home – march 2008 issue


Home Color Trends for 2008

color trends for 2008

Hooray! Warmer hues and stylish colored home décor are back in fashion. You see, I am not a fan of white or pastel rooms. I prefer living with the warmth of mellow tones.

The color specialists have established that these colors would be hot. Confirming the death of the minimalist style, the baroque style movement continues in 2008. Black and white will work as a backdrop palette and it is always used with a contrasting accent color.

One of my favorite color combinations for this year is shown on the ochre and pink vase. The russet line adds a sense of sophistication. Remember this color palette the next time you plan a tablescape.

Living with colors

Warmer reds, cranberries, burnt oranges and fruit colors would be strong this year. And bright yellows are making a comeback. My top floor is an open space at home. Except for the original long brick wall on one side, the rest of the room is painted sunny yellow with medium brown wood beams, trims and doors. Being in a yellow room triggers my creativity.

If you paint a room bright yellow be warned that you may be shocked at first. But wait until you put back all the furniture and accessories to pass your judgment. My furniture, linens, drapes and accessories are mostly natural tones or muted blues. My floor is covered with textured terracotta tiles and a Prussian blue carpet. If you cannot live with strong colors like reds, yellows and limes, reserve them for your accessories.

Explore the world of textured carpets, wallpapers and wall coverings. There are a lot of choices on the market.

Gray is the new Black

Over the last two years, I have seen fabulous gray rooms done by interior designers. One advantage of gray is that it is more subtle than black. When done it right, it brings the same level of sophistication to a room than black. Expect softer grays this year. Taupe, granite, putty and stone will be the most fashionable tones while silver and champagne add sparkles to any room.

Next to the gray, you will continue to see an array of deep dark shades. This trend started last Fall with the revival of purple and burgundy. On the softer side, you get periwinkle and Pink is still going strong is several shades.

Muted Natural Tones

Look for shades found in the natural landscape. You start with the earth: sand, camel, ochre, rust, mellow browns and pumpkin. You can mix those with denim blue, soft roses and lily pad green. Vegetal and mineral shades are represented by olive green, khaki, emerald, aquamarine and copper.

And the most liked color, blue would be prominent mainly because people like it. From soft icy blue to muted cerulean, you can take your pick.

Learn more: Home Design Trends for 2008 on AOL – photos from Pantone View inspiration for interiors 2008  guide and from IKEA
Learn more: Be the 1st to Know Popular Decorating Colors for 2008 Experts Announce Color Forecast on PR Leap

+ Spring 2008 yellows
+ More Color Trends for 2008