English Eccentric Style

So I was in the middle of outlining my five key style loves in dressing and design. There was
Palm Beach Chic and Country Club Traditional. Next is English Eccentric.

At it's most subtle it's this:

Harper's Bazaar photo /via/

It's a classic loden green fitted Gucci coat over a crisp white shirt. How Sloane Ranger-ish. But wait, Kate is holding a monkey in a leopard print diaper. It's unexpected and cheeky and politically incorrect. Think Prince Phillip in a kilt on a windy day...

At its most awesome, it's House of Hackney fabulousness:


With a generous helping of Vivienne Westwood's fantastic wallpaper

And a dash of Alexander McQueen:

And a generous helping of Ralph Lauren Home (from 2013 Iconic Design collection):

Made more whimsical with a Jake Phipps Wooster light:

English Eccentric often pulls some colonial goodness into the mix and Martyn Lawrence Bullard is the king of this look:

Delicious, indeed! 

This style can be crazy expensive as you don't get leather studded club chairs and miles of great velvet fabric at Ikea. If you are looking to do this look on a budget, consignment and antique stores will be your best friend. I have a 1920s home that I've decorated in this general style downstairs and it's a mix of high end purchases, consignment store treasures, auction goodies, and flea market finds. 

Yes, yes. Pip pip cheerio and all that. Now, where's my G&T?

I've added some pins for this general look and will continue to update things here

Soon, I'll explore Parisian Glamour and Bohemian Elegance. Stay tuned!

xo Jen

Gwyneth's Hat, Weekend Crazy, and Sheridan Rocks

Another busy weekend. Sleepovers and socials and errands and coconut shrimp and crab cakes. I got in some quality magazine time with the new issue of Life:Beautiful (a gorgeous Christian magazine that is Definitely their utmost for His Highest.) I also read this month's Harper's Bazaar with La Gwyneth on the cover. Gorgeous issue.

At first, I thought this Dior headpiece was a bit out there.

I mean, it's sort of a combo flower basket/1950's bathing cap, no? Not really playground fare. But it's one of those pieces that grabs your attention, which is the whole point of fashion and design.

I'd love to do a room that channels the delicate qualities of that hat.

Maybe an Esti Barnes Etheral rug:

A Tord Boontje Blossom Chandelier:

Arktura's Coral Screen.

And a Vibieffe's Roses 1450 Chair for good measure. 

Any takers?

Saturday, I was an open house for Sheridan's Arts Faculty. I had a chance to meet the people in the decorating program and see the classroom space I'll be occupying in the fall. It's awesome.

(They were not allowing photos since all of the student work was there but this photo is from Sheridan's website.)

I got an idea of what computer I'll need (probably a bigger Macbook with a dual processor to run all the design software) and what I'll need to add to my studio space (drafting table and stool.) We had a little tour of the resource library and the program head said the three words that made my heart flutter: Yabu. Pushelberg. Samples. Oh baby!

(Resource room from Sheridan's website)

I then took a tour of the building. There's a glassblowing studio and a furniture design workshop and a textile design workshop. I wanted to do a Tom Cruise jump on the sofa. I knew that Sheridan was the Harvard of animation schools but had no idea how amazing the school is in so many areas.The place is simply buzzing with creativity. I'm finally starting to see why I was brought to Oakville or, at the very least, God's redemptive powers at work. In Sunday school yesterday, I was teaching Revelations 21:1-6, which is the part about a New Heaven and a New Earth and how God can make everything new. I don't need to be convinced of that anymore. As it turns out, you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Who knew?

Anyways, I felt very honoured to be accepted into such a high demand program and I can't wait to jump in. I'm doing a drawing class to get ready. My art portfolio was accepted, but now that I've seen the calibre of work, I want to be really on top of things.

I don't care if you are my boss. I am NOT posing for the "life drawing" class.

Take care, people.

Friday Fun

So it's  PD day here in Pleasantville and it's not raining. Hallelujah! This morning was spent at the park. How lucky are we to be able to take our kids to play lakeside. It almost felt like we were at the ocean. (Almost.)

Yesterday was a lovely grown-up day downtown with lunch at Brioche Doree, apricot cheese pastry and lovely company. And I wore my lovely Lilly Pulitzer silk Peacock dress.

(I so need a photographer to follow me around.)

And then I had a chance to pop into my favourite accessory consignment store on Queen. I nearly came away with this bit of LV Epi goodness (which I'd use to hold headbands or carry ice to my pal's boat this summer), but I held back.

I re-arranged all the furniture yet again (it's a good sign. I never rearranged anything in the last two houses I was in, which is a big sign that it is not really home.) We went to the grocery store and bought party food since we are hosting a shindig this weekend, too. Since my little people were so helpful, we'll be doing a walk to get ice cream.

Serena will be coming along too as she still needs to lose a pound of so (if she is 20 pounds, she can fly in the cabin with us instead of on a pet jet (frenchies cannot fly in the hold so you have to send them on a private jet if they are too pudgy!))

I'm going to pretend I did not hear that. Besides, I never fly commercial. 

The promise of warmer weather plus the delivery of the new J. Crew catalogue is making me really want this bit of gorgeous:

Have to run as  ice cream is calling us.

Have a great weekend, kids!

Type Tuesday. Bunny dresses, social committees and One Better

Serena continues to recover well after her surgery. She thanks you for all the well-wishes.

This post is a bit late, as I spent the morning with the social committee at the club.  Social committee. Me. People, it's all very Isaiah 43:19:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I love it. And of course, after the meeting, the social committee likes to socialize. And then Anthropologie sprung a 20% off dresses thing on us (this is how women work - one of us gets the email and feels obliged to let the group know asap - no wonder social media marketing is all over my demographic.) So I bustled over to see if they still had the Franziska shirtdress in my size, because - hello! - bunny print, Easter.

They did! I can wear it to church and brunch. Brunch has been pushed back time wise, which is great because I'm teaching Sunday school and it would be very inappropriate if I rushed through the program so I could get to the eggs benny.

I'm still reading Mended and it's still great. The chapter I loved this week reminded us that as Christians, we are not expected to be perfect. But we are expected to do "one better." Tidy that room, talk to that friend in crisis, take that extra time with your kids. As Joyce Meyer reminds us often, being a Christian means taking your shopping cart back at the supermarket. One. Better.

I love this idea and try to remind myself of this throughout the day. Stay that extra minute to hold open the door, pick up something for someone else on my errands, focus a little more during story time.

Not everything. Not all the time. Just one better.

French fare, frenchies and a roadtrip

After two days of lashing myself to my Macbook and writing and editing like a mad woman, I'm going on a little roadtrip today.

I'm hoping it might involve some of this.

And if I shake a tail feather, some of this.

And I've been instructed to try to find some frenchie bling like this:

Or I'm going to be coming back to this:

While you were out, I ate your fan deck. 

Later gators,

Say no more...

ScalamandrĂ©. One King's Lane. Heaven. 

Don't tell me we are going to be getting more pillows...

Aerin Lauder, frenchie pedigree and why dogs do not make great design assistants

Somebody is not helping me edit today.

Were you under the impression my name is Strunk or White?

It's a good thing she has relatives who work in the design business. Serena's mother is the half-sister of Sharkey, Martha Stewart's frenchie. Sharkey and Francesca have their own blog.

That always was the overachieving side of the family.

In other news, Aerin Lauder is releasing more pretty pretty things at High Point Market this week:

Hello, Good Looking! This bracelet has my name all over it.

I can't wait to see her furniture offerings via E. J. Victor. The lady has serious style:

Play safe, kittens.

Dior bags, tuxedo chairs, Alexa Chung and budgets

I think I'm going to have to switch to a three day per week blogging schedule since it's crazy busy right now. (Who am I kidding. I'll be here tomorrow...)

The weekend was a whirl: I went to Dundas to visit a friend (what an adorable main street they have -- I'll have to make sure to visit there again when it's not SNOWING in April.) My pal brought me girl guide cookies. That was in addition to the butter tart we had at Detour. Oy!

I went to Origin in Liberty Village that evening and ate my weight in shrimp curry, calamari and raw tuna tapas. And that's not even getting into the ice cream situation...

(It's a pretty restaurant, in an old munitions factory - I instagrammed the lighting and table.)

I taught Sunday school and ate my weight in fish tacos at the Kerr Street Cafe on Sunday.

I did my finances over the weekend too and decided to be a grown up and invest some money I recently got instead of do any major home projects or buy any more bags. (I maintain that with 20% price hikes almost annually, Chanel flap bags are as good a place to put one's money as anywhere, but my financial guy disagrees with my position that they are an asset class.)  I'm on a self-imposed austerity budget for a few more months. I'll use the opportunity to rearrange my house and shop in my closet. It's almost as much fun as picking up this but of pretty:

I'll have to add some fashion into this blog since a) I can live vicariously through Alexa Chung and Carine Roitfeld


and b) what works in fashion usually works in home design, like the quilting on the Dior and Chanel bags and on on these Tuxedo chairs from Attica.


Besides, fashionistas have such great apartments.

Well, that's it for today as my assistant fell asleep on my keyboard.

Until Wednesday tomorrow,

xo Jen

Catwalks, Cookies, and Life Advice from Bonnie and Clyde

Sorry I did not post yesterday. I was doing my Coco Rocha impression and modelling spandex at the club.

Of course, my new pal the Workout Goddess was modelling a string bikini, post four children. (She is not to be confused with the Supermodel. Oakville is like that: all the women are six feet tall, size 0 and gorgeous. It's depressing. I seek my solace in Girl Guide cookies.) I was busy trying not to split my outfits since we ate lunch (and I had a nip of dutch courage) before the show. But it was all good fun and, despite Vegas odds, I did not become fashion roadkill.

On Tuesday, I attended a fabulous design talk at SOFA. Janette Ewen and  Jef Hancock of Parker Barrow were there to talk about using art in design. I thought it might be about where to source art and what height to hang things but, boy, was I in for a treat! I should have known that this duo channeling Bonnie and Clyde would shake us up a little.

Janette is a magazine editor, television goddess, fashion and home stylist and the "Hunter S Thompson of design." Jef is a bad-boy Maker of Things like this Gurney Art Table.

Oh, and he's had stuff in the Guggenheim.

They started the presentation with a quote from Camille Paglia:

“A society that forgets art risks losing its soul.”

I know. Seriously good.

Then they urged us to ban beige.

I wanted to stand up and cheer.

The talk was not on using art in design per se, but how to bring more creativity into the design process. Janette remarked how high-end hotels are to design, what couture is to the fashion: what we see in hotels will eventually trickle down to the mass market. Thankfully, hotels are no longer the stark places they were in the 90s and early 2000s, but are more opulent and fun. She highlighted the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires, where the Philippe Starck-designed El Bistro has giant unicorn heads on the wall and the pool has a giant gold crown.

And the g hotel in Galway, designed by mad milliner Philip Treacy


Not sure if it's colourful enough for me.

They talked a lot about what practices are helpful if you want to become more creative. The great thing is, this advice also helps you have a fabulous life. They were things like

See something new by 3pm, every day

Embark on a new adventure (like travel to a great city alone)

Make something once a week

Zig when others zag

Be fearless

As they pointed out, life is too short not to be lived with fun and passion. I'll have to keep reminding my kids of this when they question some of my wackier outfits on the playground tarmac (of course, a black dress, quilted biker jacket and stiletto booties are appropriate when one has just come off the runway...)

It was just so fantastic to hear. Sometimes I feel like it's daunting to embark on a new career in my 40s. And it feels daunting to go to a highly artistic decorating school when I'm a suburban mom. But after this talk, I thought about all of the experiences that have given me that fearlessness and sense of humour I need to make it in this business.

- doing stand up comedy
- filming for TV
- seeing my experiences with post-partum depression translated into part of a documentary

- having an essay in a book with rockstar authors
- sailing to Nelson's Cay and swimming in a hammerhead breeding area (who knew?)
- flying in a private jet and eating shrimp cocktail
- traveling alone
- getting robbed of my Louis Vuitton money in Paris (well, that's basically everybody)
- driving a Lamborghini Gallardo
- seeing Mark Walhberg's abs in person
- meeting Mark Burnett
- navigating divorce
- writing obituaries for the local paper as a teenager
- filing a police report (not to be repeated, I hope)
- hanging out with Harvey Keitel
- volunteering at TIFF
- taking Ballet at the National Ballet School as an adult
- buying a Chanel bag at Rue Cambon
- losing a lot of money and starting anew - twice
- getting an MBA in finance after dropping math in grade 11
- selling or giving away most of my furniture
- painting and sketching a portfolio to get me into design school
- buying a house in secret

See why I need a sense of humour?

Now, I love whimsical, fun design and use it all the time in my own home (House of Hackney pillows, ceramic dogs, and an in-progress 1960s palm beach-styled garden house inspired by a curb-side find) but the question I asked them at Q&A time was how to bring clients - especially Oakville clients - along for the ride. It's one thing to get people to buy into a fun idea on paper, but on install day, how do you keep them from bolting to Pottery Barn for a do over?

I loved the answer:

 Told you they were great...

Country Club Traditional

My prayers are with the people in Boston who were touched by yesterday's tragedy. Sometimes I wonder about the appropriateness of blogging about happy things in light of terrible news, but the reality is every day people in the world face tremendous loss and hardship. And it can sink us, or we can care for each other as best we can, and try to find some bright spots to give us hope. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison, and it was from this place of darkness that he urged the early church to dwell on positive things.

When I faced my own private battle, focusing on the beauty in the world helped bring me up and through. And so I continue to write, not in spite of tragic circumstances, but because of them.


So yesterday, I decided to bring a little Palm Beach Chic to the playground. I'd had lunch with a potential client and gussied up a little with pink jeans and a cute flamingo scarf from Indigo (on sale now for under $20)

My son could not see me at first and asked one of the moms where I was. She pointed to where I was standing and apparently he said, "Oh no, she's not in the pink pants, is she?" Everyone's a critic.

Today, I'm going to continue with the second classic style that will hold you in good stead should you discover that your savings have galloped off to the Caymans along with your tennis pro turned investment advisor.

Country Club Traditional

I've always been a preppy at heart. I still have my copy of The Preppy Handbook. I bought True Prep the minute it came out. And I always have a copy of Assouline's A Privileged Life at the ready.

The pages of these books define Country Club Traditional style - living the good life with other fresh-faced, sporty people. It's a look that's English country made less fussy and on a larger scale. There is an easy elegance to the Country Club Traditional look that screams both family and fun: slipcovered white cotton ottomans that accommodate sandy feet after a swim, large antique dining room table for when the whole fan-damily comes for Thanksgiving dinner, Auntie Nonie's Chinese Ginger Jars from the years when Uncle Tad worked as a diplomat, that Andrew Wyeth painting that zany cousin Mildred won in her divorce. And of course, everything must be able to withstand a troupe of labrador retrievers. Sometimes a good game of croquet gets in the way of making grandfather's money grow, however, and reversals of fortune are common with this bunch. There is not a lot of new or trendy stuff in the Country Club Traditional household, but thankfully grandmother's Chippendale chairs still look fab!

Old Oakville seems to be defined by Country Club Traditional style  -- lots of Cape Cods and Colonials on quiet, tree lined streets. Nothing seems to get thrown away. At the club, one plays badminton in a World War I airplane hangar, for heavens sakes: the ultimate in WASPy repurposing.

Sister Parish and Albert Hadley were hugely influential in defining the Country Club Traditional style. Sister loved the old-style English look and Hadley balanced things out with cleaner lines. Parish-Hadley protege Bunny Williams -and yes, having a nickname like Sister or Bunny is part of the overall aesthetic - also embraces this look. Love her Treillage line of accessories. It's all "Quick, Chip, throw on your Brooks Brothers blazer and grab the Bombay and the Tonic Water. Muffy and Dean just pulled their Evoque into the driveway!"

Unlike Palm Beach Chic, which involves a bit of a treasure hunt, Modern Country Club pieces are readily available. Ralph Lauren, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and Ethan Allen all have great pieces that work. And I adore Hickory Chair, if you are in an upswing budget-wise. Ditto for genius designer Darryl Carter's pieces.

Darryl Carter's breakfast room via Elle Decor

Darryl Carter's Master Bedroom via Elle Decor

You can also pick up a lot of great pieces at consignment and estate sales (there is nothing wrong with benefitting from others' reversals-of-fortune while you are involved in your own!). I always keep an eye out for drop leaf desks, leather club chairs, anything with caning, blue and white ware, oil paintings, federal mirrors, antique golf clubs and tennis racquets, trugs, nantucket wicker, silver, coach lamps and antique books.

Here is my take on the style:

No, I won't move so you can take a photo. I'm in the middle of doing research. 

I'll go into a lot more detail about how to incorporate this style on a budget in future posts.

Tomorrow, I'll be outlining a slightly riskier approach to style: English Eccentric. Hold on to your brollies, darlings!

Christmas Traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet

Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutcracker. (I took my youngest son once, but he loudly complained that there was too much dancing...