A Cozy Urban Cottage in the Heart of Halifax

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We are so excited to finally share this project in its entirety! This sweet Halifax home is one of our favourites. Working with this family over a period of a year and a half truly was a pleasure every step of the way. They appreciated and were excited about every part of the process. It brought a special warmth and mutual trust to the project that let the process evolve organically – the end result feels like an escape right in the middle of the city.

A few weeks ago our clients allowed us back in to take some photos of this beautiful home. They were so kind to take part in an e-mail interview so that we could share their story and their experience working with Sappho at Henhouse. We hope you enjoy!

What was your initial reason for getting in touch with Henhouse? 

When my husband and I first moved to the west end of Halifax, I was desperate to find furniture and décor that would tie in with our nearly 100 year old home. A friend told me about the Henhouse shop in the Hydrostone Market. I fell in love and wanted to take everything home! I was absolutely devastated when the shop closed, especially because I had planned to decorate my entire home with the treasures I would find there over the years. 

Fourteen years later, my husband and I decided that it was time to undergo a significant renovation. I knew I would need help with light fixtures, window treatments and paint colours for our kitchen and bathrooms. When I found out that Sappho had continued Henhouse as an interior design business, there was no question in my mind as to who I wanted to hire. I never even researched other designers. I knew that Sappho’s style was exactly what I wanted in our home.

How did things progress from your initial plans to where you ended up (with a whole home makeover!)

I truly believed that all we were going to do was renovate our kitchen and two bathrooms. Well, come to find out…that was just the tip of the iceberg! It became apparent during the demolition phase of the upstairs bathroom that we had old electrical and plumbing infrastructure that had to be replaced. We quickly found ourselves with a whole home makeover on our hands and significant work to be undertaken in the basement – a space we had not planned on tackling at all.

My husband and I have a daughter on the autism spectrum who presents with significant delays in development. We had always thought that one day we might raise the house and convert the basement into a legal apartment for someone to help us with in-home support for our daughter. ‘One day’ all of a sudden became ‘now’!   

Sappho came on board to help us design a beautiful living space on the main floor and the upstairs where the bedrooms are located. Once the house was lifted, and the foundation was demolished, Sappho then helped us with the finishing touches for the basement apartment and the exterior design features of our home. She literally helped us transform 90% of our home over a period of about a year and a half. We only have a main floor guest room that has yet to be redesigned. No doubt, when we are ready to tackle this final room, we will be calling Sappho! 

What would you say were the benefits of hiring Henhouse vs. trying to tackle it on your own?

There is no way that I would be nearly as happy with the results had I tried to tackle the design process on my own.

Before Sappho and I began working together, I had tried to choose light fixtures on my own. When Sappho asked me if she could see what I had chosen, she told me (very diplomatically) that every fixture looked the same. She was right! She put together a plan for light fixtures that offered more variety, but still all worked together. I was so impressed with her vision that I ended up hiring her to redesign our entire home.

Sappho also has a true gift for figuring out which patterns and textures work together in a space. Whether it’s throw cushions, draperies, wallpaper or bedding – she can piece everything together so that the space is layered perfectly. This is something I could have never done well on my own. 

Do you have any advice or insights to share with folks who are considering hiring a professional designer? 

Yes – hire one! I know we would have made many mistakes had we chosen to undertake the design and décor process on our own. I truly believe that going without a designer can cost more in the long run.

Sappho knows what is worth investing in and what’s not. Knowing when something is fleeting or if it will last the test of time can save you money. She also has access to suppliers that you may never even realize existed, and can often pass along cost savings to you.

Were there any aspects of the process or the results that went beyond your expectations? 

All of it! I really had no idea what to expect. I knew that I really loved Sappho’s style from what I experienced in her shop and from what I saw on her website and in magazine articles. What I didn’t know was how exciting and rewarding it would be to work with a designer of Sappho’s caliber.

Sappho helped me to see how my home could be even more of what I wanted. She really knows how to incorporate and pull together all the details. She sourced so many unique décor items and encouraged us to refinish family heirlooms to bring history and warmth to our home.

She even provided us with an education in art! We now have works hanging in our home from many talented local artists. Even though the renovation and design plan are complete, thanks to Sappho, we continue to have date nights visiting art galleries around Halifax and in the Annapolis Valley.

Do you have a new favourite space or something else about your home now that you are especially happy about? 

This is such a tough question. No kidding, I come home each and every day and think, “I can’t believe I live here!” The entire house is just so comfortable and inviting. It’s cozy, yet it has such amazing style. I feel like I live in my dream cottage in the middle of Halifax.

The kitchen/family room is definitely the ‘hub’ of our home. Our daughter loves spending time in the family room while her father and I putter around in the kitchen. I must say, however, there is something about the living room that I find so special and peaceful. All week, I look forward to the weekend to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book. Sometimes I don’t even get into the book as I am distracted by the wonderful living space – I still just love looking at all the design details in the living room and the adjoining dining room.

Both bedrooms are such calming and serene spaces. Although our daughter has very little language, when she saw her newly decorated bedroom for the first time, she could not stop smiling, swaying her head from side to side, and flapping her hands. It was her way of giving Sappho two major thumbs up! It made my heart so happy to see her so excited about her new ‘teenage’ bedroom.

Though I’ve been living in this space for over a year, it continues to delight each and every day. I’m truly so grateful for Sappho’s effort in making my home my ‘happy place’.

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these wonderful clients. It was a pleasure and it means so much to us that they love the results! Thanks also to Julian Parkinson for photographing this project.

How to Create a Cozy Boho Mood with a Minimalist Style

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We are loving the pared down minimal inspired looks that are trending right now. We’re seeing a mixture of styles coming together that combine minimalism’s emphasis on simplicity and function with rustic and natural elements that have a cozy boho feel. This look feels fresh and liberating – a feeling we are so ready for as we welcome in spring!

Just in time for your spring cleaning and decorating projects, we’re sharing a few tips and some inspiration on how to create this look.

Pare it down
home decor Halifax, interior decorator Halifax, home renovations

Alyssa Rosenheck, Studio McGee, Lauren Liess

Minimalism emphasizes cutting out anything that’s extra. Step number one is to take a hard look around the space you are working with and sort out what items are no longer serving you or aren’t essential. This is completely subjective, and of course some items serve utilitarian functions while others might serve you emotionally. But anything that’s bringing you down or that isn’t working for you or the space anymore can find a new home or be stored out of sight.

home decor Halifax, Interior design Halifax, home renovation, custom kitchens

Emily Henderson, Studio McGee

Though these images might have you thinking otherwise, we all have varying degrees of clutter going on in our homes. To pull of this streamlined aesthetic good storage is key! You can hide everyday items in decorative boxes, baskets and bins, and make use of furniture items that have storage. Another option is to create an artful and tidy display – we love the neatly stacked wood, and the funky wall hooks in the images above.

Add personality with collections, art, or an unexpected element

Emily Henderson (bottom right)

While true minimalism banishes any items that aren’t serving a function, the beauty of this style mash up is that there is room to add some personality. Collections, cherished personal objects, photography, and art are all welcome and are what create a warmer feel. Because other elements of this look are so simple, a well displayed collection or an unexpected item will really stand out and add a punch of personality.

Choose a subdued palette


Working with neutrals is a fun challenge and creates a calm, minimalist foundation for the space. We recently created a master bedroom concept for a client that has a very restricted palette. For this look we mixed shades of grey and off-white through the entire space, creating a unified and simple look. The trick is to choose a neutral palette and layer varying shades throughout the space.

If you’re dying for some colour you could absolutely get away with adding a few pops to liven things up. A fun occasional chair in a bright upholstery or a funky toss cushion or throw on the bed can shine against a pared down palette.

Play with texture, pattern and scale
interior design Halifax, interior decor, home renovations

Alyssa Rosenheck, Winkie Visser, Emily Henderson

When you’re working with limited colours, you have to work with other elements to create interest. We love the use of rustic woods, leather and hide, wool, stone and other natural materials to bring in lots of texture. Pattern can be added in many ways – through artwork, rugs, toss cushions and bedding.

One of our favourite elements to play with is scale! The giant stone container in the image above makes a beautiful statement, and is right at home blending with the soft colour palette and organic feeling of the space.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips and are feeling inspired and refreshed! We have some exciting new Henhouse projects to share soon so stay tuned for our next post!

Home Tour – An Historic Halifax Gem with Personal Touches

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A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to revisit a beautiful historic home in Halifax that we’ve been working on over a number of years. We brought along the talented Julian Parkinson to take some photos of the completed work. We are so excited to share them with you, along with interviews from one of the homeowners, Nancy and our designer Sappho.

custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer
Nancy

When you decided it was time to tackle these renovations what prompted you to hire Henhouse?

I’ve followed Sappho’s work for many years, dating back to the first Henhouse shop in the south end of Halifax. I fell in love with her hand painted furniture work that featured folk art designs. Sappho’s unique painted designs, colours and finishing techniques spoke to me.

Three grown children and two houses later, I wrote to Sappho with the idea of having the pine pieces painted and maybe doing “a couple of small projects” in the downstairs hallway!

We loved that Henhouse is a boutique full service design company. We chose Sappho because we did not want a “cookie cutter” style. Every single detail in our home is intentional and a true testament to Sappho’s passion for quality design, craftsmanship and the use of natural materials.

custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Coffee table and toss cushions from 31 Westgate. Gerry and Sappho worked together to create a new mantle for the fireplace.

Can you describe some of the process working with Sappho? What were some of the steps you took from design to completion and what was that experience like?

Connecting with Sappho was like meeting up with an old friend. There was an instant connection! She was genuinely invested in the Craftsman architecture, understanding our ideas and budget, the significance of family heirlooms, artwork and my collection of textiles from India. She listened and asked all the right questions to help us to figure out the next design chapter for our historic home.

We began with a couple of projects, which then led to a couple more projects – and now the entire first floor of our home is beautifully renovated!

Working step by step, room by room, she inspired and gently challenged us with her design ideas. We learned not to move too fast, to experience each step. This helped us make more informed decisions at each step. We learned what to splurge on and what to pull back on.

Sappho looked after every detail and in the end the efficiency and overall quality was superior. She collaborates with a team of hand-chosen talented professional tradespeople, who were a pleasure to have in the house, always arrived on time and work was completed within budget.

custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

New custom built-ins provide space to store and showcase Gerry and Nancy’s heirloom collections.

What do you like most about the new improvements to your home? Do you have a favourite space or design element?

I love everything from the details of the curios, to the custom colour created for the fireplace mantle that Sappho designed and Gerry built. Sappho wove together our existing family heirlooms, antiques, and artwork with unique & distinctive fabrics, furniture, lighting, accessories, and carpets. She created a warm and inviting home, a home where our personal touches are evident in every room. She captured our essence.

Our home is so comfortable and beautiful, everyday I pinch myself just to be sure it’s not a dream!

Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Wallpaper from Cole & Son, Sappho and Gerry worked together on the custom paint treatment below the chair rail. Decorative bone boxes from 31 Westgate.

Sappho

What was special or unique about this project? Were there any aspects of the design or the process that stand out for you?

As soon as I walked into this house I was taken with the beautiful trim work which had been left natural. Gerry had begun the laborious process of restoring the trim and it gave the feeling of history and warmth.

Nancy had expressed to me that her biggest desire was to “brighten” the home’s interior and freshen it up. Their furnishings are great quality, but some pieces felt dated and heavy. We wanted to keep a lot of the existing furnishings, display Nancy’s and Gerry’s family heirlooms and collections, and showcase the beautiful original woodwork. My challenge was to update the main floor rooms while honouring the historical elements of the home, and maintaining the sense of history and personality.

The homeowners were very involved in the process in a hands on way. Nancy and I instantly connected over our shared obsession with Indian fabrics – she has an incredible collection from her travels to India. Gerry helped execute so many of the projects alongside me and the henhouse team including several woodworking projects and painting. Connecting with these two made this project very special.

Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

What were the biggest changes and/or challenges you came across with this project?

Nancy and Gerry’s house has been a work in progress over many years. We started in the front hall, then moved on to the the living room and then the kitchen.

Starting in the front hall, the biggest change was the wallpaper. I carefully researched our options – I wanted to choose just the right pattern that would enliven the dark foyer, and respect the home’s roots. We chose this Cole & Son William Morris-esque paper that I just love. It’s crisp and clean with a nod to historical design.

I wanted to use grasscloth below the chair rail but I couldn’t quite convince the homeowners. In the end we decided on hand painted “grasscloth” which I executed with Gerry’s help. This solution was much more economical and added another layer of personality to this space.

custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Next we moved onto the living room. We painted out the whole room, brought in new curtains, and fabrics for toss cushions, and reupholstered the wing chairs and wicker chair. I redesigned the fireplace mantle, and Gerry built and installed it. 

Nancy and Gerry have a wonderful collection of family heirlooms, many of which were stored away. We decided to install custom builtins to give them a place to showcase these special items.

custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Toss cushions, coffee table and side table from 31 Westgate.

Finally, we got to work in kitchen area, which was just completed at the end of last year. The plan was to do some basic upgrades and tweaks to the original handcrafted kitchen. However, after thoroughly inspecting the existing kitchen and reviewing our plan, I realized that unfortunately the current structures were not worth putting money into, and that it would be more effective to put in a new custom kitchen.

custom kitchen, custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

We moved forward with a slightly different design plan, but were able to incorporate better finishes and more efficient storage. I wanted the backsplash tile to be the focal point and we searched and searched for a tile that was affordable and that we loved. We landed on this beautiful sage colour tile that has a crackle finish, giving it a watercolour feel. It fits in so well with the home and is just gorgeous. The other major feature is the copper sink, it blends in with the house and with all of the beautiful wood details.

Gerry did a beautiful job of building the custom hood vent and the island countertop using reclaimed mahogany from the old kitchen. He created a log cabin quilting pattern in the island top, a tribute to Nancy’s love of needlework. The Island base was created by local artist and metal worker Christopher Joyce.

custom kitchen, custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Gerry built the custom island countertop and hood vent using wood from the original kitchen.

This is a beautiful historic home in Halifax. Do you have any advice for updating a home while still honouring its history?

I always like to get the feel of a house and let its architectural details inform my decisions. I know many people who have natural trim question wether or not to paint it. Sometimes the answer is yes, but when I’m working with a client I listen to how they feel about certain elements of the home and what their lifestyle is.

With this house, Gerry’s work on the trim made it obvious that we would keep it natural. We were able to use this feature and bring a sense of lightness through other elements. I feel the house is freshened up but also cosy and layered. 

custom kitchen, custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Tell us how you worked with the homeowners to incorporate personal touches to the decor.

Nancy is a talented needleworker and has created these sweet and heartfelt Valentines for Gerry over the years. I loved spending time with Nancy hanging these works in a grouping to show them off. Also going through their collections of things and regrouping them in a styled way in the built-in bookcases was a lot of fun. She just let me at it!

custom kitchen, custom built ins, Halifax interior design, home decor, renovations, interior decorating, interior designer

Nancy’s hand stitched valentines are counted thread work stitched on natural fabrics with cotton threads.

Thank you so much Nancy and Gerry it was a great pleasure working with you! Thanks again to our photographer Julian Parkinson, and to 31 Westgate.

Meet the Henhouse Team & See Some of our Top Projects

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As 2018 draws to a close, we’re taking a moment to look back at past projects as well as looking forward to what 2019 has in store. We’re currently booking projects into the new year, so if you have a project in mind get in touch with us, we’d love to hear about it. Need some some inspiration? Scroll down to see our top projects!

Before we take a look back, we want to introduce you to the the Henhouse team. We love what we do, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without our wonderful team.

The Henhouse Team

Sappho Griffin – Owner, Designer, Project Coordinator

Sappho has a life long love of layered soulful spaces. Bringing together natural textiles, antiques and combining vintage with new, Sappho creates rooms that have a luxurious energy that is classic yet current.

With a background in fine art and design, she came to Halifax from Vancouver in 2000 and opened her retail shop in 2001. Specializing in home decor, antiques and her own line of custom furniture, she eventually grew the shop’s offerings to include custom kitchens and built-in cabinetry.

Since deciding to close the shop in 2013, Sappho has focused on interior renovations and whole home projects; from design concept to project completion, and right down to the decorating and styling details. Custom kitchens and bath renovations continue to be the bones of Henhouse’s business.  She enjoys working collaboratively with her clients and the Henhouse team to bring BIG ideas to life.

Alyssa Chapeskie – Interior Styling & Digital Content

Alyssa has been part of the Henhouse team for many years. Her love of home decor, handmade items and local small business drew her to the Henhouse retail shop in 2010. At the shop, she gained many skills – from customer service to furniture finishing and visual merchandising. She also took on the role of writing the Henhouse blog, a job she continues to enjoy.

With a background in Fine Art, Alyssa brings a unique and detailed vision to her styling projects. She enjoys hunting down the perfect finishing touches, and artfully arranging items that bring soul or add function to a space.

 

Alex Hastie and Liam Hollet – Woodworking & Remodelling

Alex has been involved with building and woodworking for many years. He got his start working for his Dad’s company, Birdseye Builders, where he learned fine wood working, framing, millwork and residential remodelling. Alex has worked on many projects with Henhouse over the past six years. He appreciates the Henhouse aesthetic, attention to detail and commitment to quality work. He has a great eye for design and the skills to bring our ideas to life. Together with Sappho, Alex manages a team of dedicated trades whose skills guarantee quality and sound of mind.

Liam began learning the trade when he joined Birdseye Builders in 2014. He was very keen on learning, and became focused on educating himself about building practises. Over the years he has expanded his skills and knowledge on the job, working on high end custom builds. Liam has a detailed approach and is passionate about high quality work and materials.

Our Top Projects

Now for some inspiration! We enjoy working on all kinds of projects big and small, but we certainly have a soft spot for whole home renovations. Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects, here are a few of our favourites. Click on the photo for more info about each project.

LaHave – Kitchen Design & Custom Furnishings

Starboard – Interior Finishes, Millwork Design & Styling

South End Halifax – Main Floor Renovation & Decoration on Two Floors

Cole Harbour – Custom Kitchen and Dining Room Renovation

Chester – Custom Kitchen and Sunroom Renovation


We are just wrapping a few big projects for 2018 and we’ll be sharing more soon, so stay tuned! We look forward to working with and meeting new clients, If you have a project that you’d like to tackle in 2019 get in touch!

© 2009–2019 Henhouse

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