My recent trip to Canada was quite an experience – I’m a ‘crossing the Atlantic’ virgin, which seemed to surprise everyone. And yes that does mean I’ve never been to New York; I lost count of how many people asked me that after my admission that I’d never crossed the pond.

My old college friend Dave asked me over there to help with colour scheming and other interior design related issues for his home in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. Within a couple of days of being invited, I was there – Dave has never been one to hang about once he’s made his mind up! I’d never met or spoken to his wife or their young son, I had no idea what to expect but it turned out to be a fun and interesting trip.

I’m guessing that theirs is a fairly typical family home in that neck of the woods, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a cloakroom; kitchen diner, utility and large den; sun room; plus a formal living room through to the dining room. The revelation to me however was the basement. I’ve seen American houses on TV of course with their underground workshops and utility areas but, I wasn’t expecting a pub-style bar with large table and settle style seating; another large den; a shower room; utility area and workshop, all off a spacious hallway. There’s a whole other home down there.

Karine told me that theirs is “a brown house” and indeed it is. The house is full of dark wood furniture and brownish tones throughout. A previous foray into employing an interior designer had led to some of the wood skirting boards and architraves being painted – which I thought looked fresh and light, but Karine said that there wasn’t a day went past that she didn’t regret agreeing to it.

My job was to find a way of injecting colour and freshening up the décor in a way that would reflect Karine’s love of wood and autumnal tones but also moving away from the brown shades that she’d grown tired of. Both Dave and Karine prefer traditional turn of the century styles, they both love strong colours and aren’t afraid of ‘going dark’. Oddly, their gorgeous six-year-old son James, likes beige, khaki and more beige!

Karine and I set out over the next week to find the perfect colours.

Home Depot was our first port of call and I must say, I like the North American attitude to supplying colour swatches. Unlike the mean little chips we’re expected to choose from, their chips are huge by comparison – at least twice the size of your average business card AND THEY ARE FREE. British paint manufacturers, please take note. The Benjamin Moore store is great for choosing wallpapers and though they have a relatively small range of paint colours, the collection is subtle and well put together.

Now, usually I would get all my swatches together and carefully mull over what would be best in each space for a week or two before putting together sample and concept boards, but I didn’t have time to indulge in any of that nonsense! I had to keep things simple and make sure that their contractors had enough information and a proper specification so, by the end of the week I had put together a paint and wallpaper ‘bible’ that my hosts and their contractor can refer to once they start the decorating process next spring.

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Rooms off the hallway are a straw colour in the living room; deep red in the dining room and sage green in the study. In the hall this beautiful paper (above) will pull the colours together.

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The washroom off the hall will be papered in this companion to the arabesque paper used in the entrance.


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Sage paint for the study.

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Red paint for the dining room to pick up the red accessories in the living room which it adjoins. It’s also an excellent match for the dark red, green and straw striped fabric on the upholstered dining chairs.

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Karine is very happy with Straw, chosen by a previous interior designer for the living room. My suggestion was to replace the brown cushions with red and to change the brown lampshades for black or even red ones.

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We chose this sweet berry patterned paper for the kitchen, which is off both the entrance hall and formal dining room. In keeping with Karine’s French roots, the kitchen will be given an antique French style and seat pads and table linens will be in a toning red check. We’re looking for the bistro style table and a suitable light fitting.

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