Polished brass continues to shine.

Brass, an alloy of two metals (copper and zinc), whose ratio can be modified to obtain different degrees of hardness and aesthetic finishes, was a huge trend for 2013 in all sectors of home design. Highly versatile, it can be used in a wide range of products such as cabinet and door hardware, lamp bases and light shapes, candle holders, picture frames, decorative items, and plumbing fixtures. It is a particularly popular choice these days for bathrooms and the trend will likely continue in the future.

Here are some of my favorite examples of brass hardware:

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1. Mandy Milk’s bathroom renovation, Canadian House and Home  | 2. John Derian, The Make-Under, T Magazine  | 3. Interior: 1 month Makeover, Style at Home | 4. Chic Design Investments LLC

1/ Vintage modern: In Mandy Milk’s bathroom renovation, brass is wonderfully used to pick up an otherwise dark color palate. The brass just works so well here tying in the different colors and shapes of the tile with the dark color of the tub and its vintage brass claw feet. I am absolutely amazed how big this bathroom looks after renovation in contrast to the super small cramped “before” pictures and I think the shiny brass really makes the difference here.

2/ Salvaged vintage:  When transforming his NY East Village loft, home decor designer John Derian didn’t seek to hide all the imperfections that made the place authentic. Instead he chose to highlight them by going with an interior design that is understated, worn and vintage. The dark grout between the white subway wall and hex floor tile is a great example. The salvaged vintage brass faucets and fixtures are another. It picks up the space and gives it a bit of richness it might lack otherwise. I love this bathroom so much.

3/ Restored vintage: Canadian TV host Karen Bertelsen and author of the very funny and informative blog  The Art of Doing Stuff, had the privilege of using the vintage plumbing that had been carefully preserved in her 170 year old home. Kudos to her for keeping and restoring all the stunning original brass hardware!

4/ Bright modern: With the brass trend in full effect, there are plenty of new shiny brass fixtures on the market which interior designers are using to full effect. Interior design company Chic Design (from my home state of Oregon!) used brass in this remarkable bathroom renovation which united 2 attic rooms. Here, the brass makes an already bright bathroom seem even brighter.


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Bring on the brass: D-type shower rod in polished brass by Kingston Brass | Brass shower kit from Light in the Box |Keswick Exposed Wall Mount Shower and Tub Faucet by Whittington | Exposed Bath/Shower Floor Entry Set (Brass Gold) from Bunnings | Morracain engraved brass faucet from Laloly Shop



Medieval and Gothic Influences in Interior Design.

  Tessa Kennedy from The Bedroom, 1995, Abbeville Press 

After the D-Day commemorative celebrations, the next big event on Bayeux’s calendar is its annual Fêtes Médiévales. Taking place this year the 6-7th of July, the festival is a fun family event featuring lots of reenactments, expositions and spectacles de rues all enhanced by the ambiance and beauty of the town’s Medieval Norman Romanesque architecture.

This year’s theme is particularly cool: Medieval builders. In tune with the festival’s theme, I thought it would be fun to do some research to see if there were any design inspirations from the Middle Ages we could use for our Tour without going full Game of Thrones.

Renzo Mongiardino, House & Garden Best in Decoration, 1987

Unfortunately, when I perused the chapter on the Middle Ages in my copy of A History of Interior Design by John Pile, I wasn’t too inspired. What I learned was that Medieval dwellings were sparsely furnished affairs even in the most noble of homes. Furniture was very limited and mostly consisted of three-legged stools, trestle tables and benches. Even chairs as we know them today were very rare during the Middle Ages and served in part as a status symbol of the importance of the person sitting in it.

So where did our idealized notions of Medieval interior design come from? I believe they mostly came from the design movement known as Gothic Revival.

Alexander Jackson Davis’ Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown, New York, circa 1940

Gothic Revival, Victorian Gothic or encore Neo-Gothic was a popular design movement that started in the late 18th century and continued till the early 20th. Previously during the Renaissance, the term “Gothic” had been used pejoratively as a connotation of ignorance and all things Medieval were held in particular disdain. In contrast, the Gothic Revival mirrored a new interest in the Middle Ages as architects like Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (later succeeded by his son EW Pugin) in England and Alexander Jackson Davis in the United States, revisited the visual themes of  Medieval architecture by applying them to new constructions, furniture design and home decor. Thus, Gothic Revival interior design borrowed inspiration from the central motifs and lines of high gothic architecture such as castles and cathedrals and not from real interiors of the Middle Ages.



        Alexander Jackson Davis, wheel-back side chair, 1842-45 via NY Times | A pair of Victorian Gothic side chairs circa 1880 from Christie’s | Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Glastonbury chair, 1839,  V&A Collections | EW Pugin, The Granville Chair, 1870 via Arts & Crafts Org.UK | 19th century Rustic French trestle coffee table from Ancient Point | Pair of Canadian rustic Gothic Revival Benches, circa 1880’s via 1stdibs

What I find so interesting about the above examples of furniture is the variety of styles that exists within the genre. From the intricate high design and production of Davis’ wheel chair to the rustic folk pieces pictured at bottom, Gothic Revival was deeply entrenched in the public psyche and influenced designers and craftsman of all backgrounds. The two chairs featured in the middle column are particularly interesting. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin created the Glastonbury chair based on designs of one of the rare known chairs in existence during medieval times, while his son EW’s Granville chair is a combination of Grecian and Gothic lines suggesting more of a fusion of styles. The Gothic Revival greatly influenced the later Arts & Crafts design movement and the Granville chair reflects both. (more…)


Our historic roof is repaired.



The primary restoration work on our beautiful attic is done! See what it looked like before here.

The roofers, equiped with lifelines, came and replaced all the loose and missing shingles (I wish I had pictures!), and the charpentier menuisier reinforced the beams with specially cut pinewood pieces. Then the whole roof was chemically treated to prevent future infestation by insects or fungus. The charpentier menuisier complimented again the beauty of the original work and said we were good to go for another 100 years.

Much, much later when the other rooms are done we’ll come back to the attic. We’ll work on homogenizing the color of the wood and replaster the walls. This will make a beautiful guest room…someday. For now, it’s just  une bonne chose de faite.

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cuisine-aurelie-mathigot EXPOSED BEAMS AND JOISTS



1638 1638?


Considering the aesthetic and energy consumption of our wood burning options. 

fireplace collageCredits: 1234

When it comes to interior design, my husband and I are almost always on the same page. I’ll say “I want our kitchen to look like this…” and he’ll say “I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing”. Or he’ll say “I want our bathroom to be like this…”. You get the picture. So it was surprising when we wanted very different things for a very central part of our Tour: the hearth.

He wants to install a new but traditionally made fireplace in pierre de Caen. Something classic like the examples above. However, with all our apparent stone walls, I wanted more of a juxtaposition of materials to give our Tour a cozier feel. I want a cute wood stove.

wood stove CollageCredits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

There are 4 fireplaces in our Tour, but only one that is worth anything. Unfortunately, it’s in the space that will probably become our daughter’s room, so no fires there. We will strip the paint and restore the natural stonework on this one, but it will remain inactive.

fireplace2Left: Our fireplace in pierre de Caen. Right: Fireplace in raw pierre de Caen by Conraud Doye

The other fireplaces in our Tour like the one shown below are just cache misère. That’s not marble there, just some funky plastic resin. We haven’t tore the casings off yet, but we don’t expect to find much behind them. The chiminey structure looks a bit like the one below (minus the brick) and we’ll work with it for whatever option we finally choose.

fireplace3Left: Main fireplace in our Tour. Right: Fireplaces new and restored by Conraud Doye

There are a lot of amazing tailleurs de pierre like Conraud Doye in the region who restore or make new fireplaces with traditional techniques using  pierre de Caen. While I absolutely love the look of a traditional stone fireplace, our Tour has NO central heating, and I think a wood stove would be more efficient. After several heated discussions (pun intended), I sent my husband several articles like this detailing the  energy consumption/loss of both options. I think I’ve convinced him. Maybe.

I also kinda like the idea of having a fun colorful wood stove in enamel or tile:

new woodstoves1. Wood stove VENDOME blue enamel / 2. Wood stove LUNA enamelled red / 4. Stove chimney BOHEME all from Invicta / 3.  Wood Stove Morso 3112 from Morso

Or what about this awesome steam-punk looking wood stove from Marinemine? Estonian sculptor Mati Karmin makes furniture and wood stoves from old Russian mine shells. Now that would be some style juxtaposition!

mine-furniture 06 Marinemine
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