Home Tour – An Historic Halifax Gem with Personal Touches

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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

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!

Simple Fall Tablescapes

After a lovely holiday, the Henhouse team is back and digging into our Fall & Winter projects. It’s so nice to be able to get away for awhile, and it’s also wonderful to return back home. We’re back to our routines and settling into the beautiful Fall season in Nova Scotia.

As things are changing outdoors and Thanksgiving is approaching, we’ve been thinking of ways to freshen up our dining table for Fall. We put together a little photo shoot at Sappho’s house and also found some great images online that we want to share!

Here area  few pics that Sappho took of her table design. If you’ve been following us for awhile, you’ll know that mixing old and new is classic Henhouse style. Sappho layered vintage on top contemporary using items she has collected, like the dinnerware and serving bowls, and freshened it up by adding in newer things like the vases and glass cups.

This time of year inspiration is abundant, the colours, sounds and smells of Fall are rich and wonderful! Why not capture a bit of that richness and bring it indoors? A simple and elegant way of doing that is by clipping some stems and placing them in a vase on your table or sideboard. Sappho has some fruiting quince in her yard that she brought in and it ties in beautifully with the vibrant greens in her table linens and dishes.

This look is cozy and casual, with a few pops of unexpected colour that create a sense of fun. The bright green plates and vibrant blue candlesticks offer something different from your usual Fall themed table setting, but everything ties together. Don’t be afraid to try something out of the box and inject a bit of fun and personality!

Here’s a look at a few more inspiring table settings we found online:

This is a beautiful and eclectic mix. The vintage dishes with the woven chargers and block printed runner is a lovely combination of different textures and patterns. Layering a few contrasting elements is a great way to make an eye catching tablescape. The juicy florals liven up the whole look, and the photographs at each setting are personal and fun.

Get crafty! This table has lots of whimsy thanks to the spray painted pumpkins that run down the centre. This would be a simple and fun way to dress up your table, and we love the unconventional colour palette. More modern charcoal plates are set off against more traditional white scallop edged plates. This is a lovely modern rustic look.

For something a little fancier just add some sparkle! The overall look is rustic, but the addition of reflective items on the table adds a dash of sophistication. Brilliant silver candlesticks, mercury glass cups and tealight holders all work together creating layer of elegance. Don’t forget to light the candles – a shimmery table is best showcased by flickering candlelight.

We hope our collection of tablescapes have inspired you! Setting the dining table can be lots of fun and a great place to express your personality and set the mood for gatherings. We hope you get creative with your table this season and enjoy good company gathered around it!

Our Spring/Summer Projects – Exciting Work in Progress

It’s been a little while since we’ve shown you some sneak peeks of what we’ve been working on. We have quite a few projects on the go keeping us very busy and feeling inspired. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to this Spring and Summer!

Dartmouth Reno and Refresh

This project began in early Spring and is coming together beautifully. The homeowners hired us to update their foyer, living room, dining room, den and laundry/ powder room. The list of renovations included refinishing the hardwood floors, adding character to the entryway with wainscotting, getting rid of the popcorn ceilings, and creating better storage and adding personality in the laundry/ powder room.

In the photo above you can see our plans for the living area on the left, and on the right a few photos of the room in progress. Just a few more pieces needed here to complete the look.

In order to keep our budget in check we’ve been having fun mixing high and lower priced items, and reincorporating a lot of the homeowners’ art and decor. The overall look is airy and light with a few funky statement pieces that reflect the homeowners’ style. Above are the plans for the den and dining room, which are both coming along nicely. We’ve installed the starburst light over the dining table which looks gorgeous and adds lots of personality.

Below you can see the plan for the laundry/powder room and a few progress photos on the right. We’ve installed wallpaper, lighting, cabinetry and a new custom storage unit.

We’re nearing completion on this project, just waiting on a few more furniture items and accessories then we’ll finish styling the decor over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for updates!

South End Halifax Nursery Room

We began working with these clients about two years ago, tackling several projects throughout the home. Our very first projects included decorating the living room, dining room and front foyer. We were so excited to hear from them again recently with the news that they are expecting a baby this fall, and that they wanted us to decorate the nursery.

The inspiration for this room came from a bouquet of flowers that was gifted to the homeowners. They loved the colour palette – lots of greens, touches of soft pinks and pops of red. We came up with a design that mixes fun patterns, fresh colours and a bit of whimsy and softness.

Above you can see a couple of before photos. We can’t wait to see this one complete and to share it with you.

Central Halifax Kitchen Renovation

These homeowners are also longtime clients of ours. Over the past several years we have completed work on their front foyer, followed by the living room, then den, working our way from the front of the house to the back. Now we’re on to the kitchen and dining area of this gorgeous craftsman style home. 

The house is filled with character, featuring lots of rich patinas and beautifully restored wood trim throughout. Our design carries that moody, rich and cozy feeling into the kitchen with warm greys, creams, browns, and dark stone. We sourced a special tile from Toronto for the backsplash that has a lot of depth and texture.

Our initial plan was to do a simple refresh, keeping the cabinetry and replacing the countertops, new fixtures and a fresh coat of paint. Our plans quickly changed after closer inspection of the existing cabinets. After many years of wear they weren’t suited to hold new stone and we decided that they needed to be replaced. The Henhouse team quickly came up with a plan for new custom cabinetry.

The custom cabinets are now installed and are in the process of being hand-painted by the homeowner. Our builder did an incredible job of creating the double panelled doors – not an easy feat! The homeowner also has plans to build a mahogany hood for the stove vent using wood that he saved from the home’s original kitchen. We can’t wait to see this one complete!

Halifax Urban Cottage

This sweet house in Halifax has been in progress for the past year. We’ve completed the decor for nearly the entire home including paint selection, furnishings, fabrics, artwork selection, lighting, and decor. We lovingly call it our urban cottage because it has a very cozy and collected style that makes you feel right at home.

Now we’re focusing on the master bedroom and girl’s room upstairs. We kept the colour palette light and airy, with lots of blues, whites and punches of corals. We brought in some beautiful rugs to warm up both rooms and add texture. We chose new bedding and accessories, and we’re now on the hunt for just a few more accessories to finish off these two rooms.


One special feature of the master bedroom design is the antique hutch seen in the photo on the right. It’s a family heirloom that was sitting unused so we brought it back to life with a light refinishing. Now it will be used for jewellery and extra storage. We’re so happy with how everything looks so far.

Be sure to stay tuned for the final results of these projects and more! If you aren’t already subscribed to our newsletter click here, and you can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook for some of the behind the scenes action with Henhouse.