On-Site: European Bistro Kitchen Reno

Our European inspired custom kitchen reno is almost finished!  We completed a master bedroom update for this client last year, and over the past several months we’ve moved on to tackle several other areas of the main floor, including the living/ dining area, the front foyer and a powder room.

Here’s an up-to-date look at what’s been happening behind the scenes.

Desktop8The photo above is the vision for the kitchen and dining area. The design is fresh and clean with pops of florals, and soft coral and turquoise tones. The space is narrow, so we chose chose a neutral palette for the wall tiles, paint and custom cabinetry  to keep it feeling airy and bright. Brass light fixtures, and jewel-like hardware add a bit of sparkle!

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Here’s a peek at the cabinetry during installation. You can see some before shots of the kitchen here. The original layout included a peninsula that separated the kitchen and dining areas. A peninsula can be a great solution in some spaces, but in this narrow kitchen it was cutting off the flow and it wasn’t the most efficient use of space.

For the new design we removed the peninsula, relocated the stove, sink and fridge, and added a custom island. The new layout provides more counter space and a better flow.

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Above you can see the new island awaiting its countertop. Our client dreamed of having an island, so we were determined to make it happen!

To make it work we designed a narrow island with open storage down below. It looks light and airy, like a furniture piece. It felt a bit risky putting it into this small space, especially after seeing the cabinets installed! But we trusted our gut instincts and once it was in place it actually made the space feel bigger!

Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Baltic Sea and finished with decorative brass knobs, it makes a nice statement and offers lots of counter space and storage.


Above is the dining area in progress. We’ve painted the walls, and are in the process of painting the newly installed wainscotting. For the furniture, we’re chosen a tulip table from Attica and beautiful bistro chairs from Serena & Lily.

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Above you can see some fabric and paint swatches that are being used in the dining and living area. We just finished recovering an ottoman for the living area in the lovely floral fabric from Kravet on the bottom left. You can see a sneak peek on Instagram!.

Blog May2nd5-001The powder and foyer are also coming along. The photo on the left is of the wallpaper we chose. The large-scale floral paper is for the foyer, and the bold coral paper is for the powder room. On the right you can see the funky vintage light fixtures I found on Etsy and the newly retiled floor. You’ll have to check back in for the final result!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more behind the scenes photos.

My Tips for Choosing Fabrics

Mixing and matching fabrics is one of my favourite interior design challenges. Using a variety of fabrics that compliment each other is a great way to add character and interest to a room. With so many beautiful colours, patterns and textures on the market, choosing just the right combination is no easy feat!

Here are a few of my tips and some examples I’ve pulled together of potential clients to get you started:

1. How will the space be used?

Textiles are an investment, so it’s important to be sure that the fabric is meant to withstand the amount of wear that it will be exposed to.

Do kids use the space? Does the dog love to sleep on that chair? Is this a high-traffic area, or an occasionally used space? These are all things to consider.


Upholstery fabric is manufactured in different strengths. For sofas or harder wearing furniture pieces 30,000 double rubs and up is ideal.  A teflon coating will offer extra wear, and is a good idea for spaces where pets and kids like to hang out. For lighter use furnishings or toss cushions and curtains anything in the 9000 and above range will work well.

2. Choose a dominant pattern first as your jumping off point.

Before looking at samples it really helps to take a good look at the space and think about what the end vision is. What element do you want to stand out, which would be better left quiet. Have a rough idea of what you like, what you don’t like and what colours or style you’re after. A lot of my clients come to me with images they’ve collected from magazines or on Pinterest which is a great place to start!


It’s also important to consider any fixed elements in the room. I always keep in mind any furniture or artwork that my clients want to keep in the space, the wall colour, rugs etc. Taking the time to get a sense of what you’re after will really help narrow down the endless options.

3.  Play with Scale and Pattern!

This is where things get tricky, and where a professional designer can really help. At this stage, it’s all about pulling fabrics, and playing around with scale, texture, pattern, and colour.  For me, this is the fun part!


Oftentimes I’ll start with one fabric that works as a jumping off point for the whole palette. I look for something bold, or bright or large scale – something that stands out. Once I have this, I can start choosing the coordinating fabrics. I like to choose complimentary rather than matching. This can mean pairing a floral with a geometric, a large scale print with a smaller print and so on.

If you need help selecting fabric, contact me, I’m happy help with any project, from upholstery to accent pillows, window coverings and more! All fabrics above were selected from Bellissimo’s vast library.

My Top Instagram Feeds

Instagram has become a great tool for me. I love being able to access such a vast array of visual information all in one place. It’s a convenient way to stay connected with what’s going on in interior design, fashion, and local business. I also enjoy getting to glimpse places I’d love to travel to and find inspiration in all the amazing things people are doing in my community and beyond.

Here are some of my current favourites:

Interior Design


@amberinteriors never fails to amaze me! This LA based designer has a clean style, peppered with funky fabrics, finishes and textures that give her aesthetic a very free boho vibe – so perfect for the California lifestyle. I love her use of vintage textiles.  She has a fabulous shop, and I am certain that I would go broke if I lived near it!


@dominomag was one of my favourite magazines. After they stopped distributing, I was so glad to see them release a beautiful coffee table book, and build an online presence. Their look is the epitome of  the perfect unmatched undecorated look, very bohemian and eclectic.  Their Instagram feed is filled with beautiful and inspiring photos.


@studiomcgee fresh, classic, clean, transitional, pretty… go follow this feed! Now!


@namdangmitchell is a designer working in my hometown of Toronto. I drool over every photo she posts. She has an incredible skill for using neutrals, often working with a palette of creams, greys, browns with bits of green and black. Her work is executed to perfection using the best materials. I also can’t get enough of her style and travel pics!



@hollywoodathome is where you will find photos of the most wonderful textiles by acclaimed designer Peter Dunham. I have travelled to India and have always loved the incredible hand block printed vegetable dye fabrics that are made there. Peter Dunham’s fabrics are made in this same tradition but through his own unique vision. I get inspired by all of the different applications, and enjoy seeing what’s new.


@kayakilims sells the most beautiful vintage kilim rugs. The photos on their feed often show their rugs displayed against their lovely Turkish homeland. It takes me back to my visit to there in 1998 when I traveled with my husband after we first met. At that time I could not afford a carpet nor did we have a permanent home, luckily Kaya kilims also has a great online store! Its a great place to purchase carpets for my clients or for myself.

Fashion & Lifestyle


@wildrosebudsblog is a Halifax area blogger and mom with an incredible fashion sense. I can always use some inspiration and guidance on what to wear, and  I love how she puts her outfits together.  She offers tips on where to find great clothing and accessories, often promoting local businesses. She has a lovely family and a great eye.


@casa_colibri is where I find inspiration for my yoga practise. I practice yoga most days of the week as it helps me destress, focus, feel more accepting of myself and others, and keeps me feeling strong and healthy. Every day I am in awe of  Steph Gongora’s flows and postures. She is super strong and bendy and inspires me to get on my mat to push myself a little further.



@thecanteenns the pictures say it all! Be warned that if you follow this feed you will want to drop everything and get to Dartmouth’s The Canteen! The food tastes even better than it looks, so what are you waiting for? Get your butt to Dartmouth NOW!

Makes Me Laugh

@tommysmythe is a Toronto designer with an eye for symmetry, tradition and great architecture. I feel a bit of a personal connection, as I went to high school with his sister Christie Smythe (creator of the fashion brand Smythe Les Vests) and met Tommy at a party or two back in the day! His Instagram feed is filled with photos of old buildings in Toronto and beyond, and his wild abuse of hashtags often has me laughing out loud!

Do you use Instagram too?  Tell me about who you’re following over on our Facebook page! You can also follow henhouse at @sapphohenouse!

Design Projects Big and Small

At henhouse, our services span from small projects (like an interior design consultation), to large and more complicated projects (like kitchen renovations). We have several projects in various stages on the go right now, and each one is different in scale and complexity. Sometimes a project starts small and then grows, other times a client might just need some pointers or a new perspective. It all depends on the customer, their needs and budget, and we are always happy to help.

We’ve talked before about the benefits of hiring a professional designer. Let’s talk about some of the possibilities by taking a sneak peek at a few recent and ongoing projects .

Halifax North:

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This project started as built-ins in one room and is gradually expanding into other areas of the home. After completing the built-ins for the TV room, the homeowners asked us back a year later to help with their bedroom, fireplace room, TV room, and downstairs rec room.

Halifax Nroth Home1

We started with the fireplace room, and came up with the design plan above. The henhouse team was hired to take care of the electrical work, install new windows and additional built-ins, painting, and to create custom window dressings and toss cushions. The homeowners took on some of the work themselves, including purchasing the furnishings that were suggested in the design plan.

Halifax Nroth Home2

Realizing a plan over time, whether it’s a single room or several areas of a home, is less invasive and easier to manage financially. As you can see from the photos above, the room is coming together – we’re just awaiting new furniture pieces! Next, we’ll tackle the bedroom and window coverings for the kitchen/ dining area, and TV room.

Hemlock Ravine Cottage:

Hemlock Ravine Cottage

This home needed an injection of colour and a new furniture layout in the living and dining spaces. The owner loves antiques and vintage furniture, and has a wonderful collection of quality older pieces that we wanted to make use of. The main challenges were the awkward shape of the rooms, and paring down her furniture by choosing the pieces that best suit both spaces. We created a floor plan for each room and recommended which pieces to keep.

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She also had a very bland colour palette that had felt safe to her but now she was ready for some colour! We chose paint colours, fabric and carpets to inject the much needed colour she was craving. Now that she has some direction, she chose to execute the plan on her own and in her own time.

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Halifax South:

Back in 2015, henhouse was hired to complete a master bedroom makeover in this home. The homeowner had us complete the project while she was on holiday and returned to the big reveal!


Now we are getting ready to renovate her outdated 80’s kitchen. Planning began last fall and the renovations will begin next month. The henhouse team will create and install custom cabinetry throughout, install flooring, finishes, paint, lighting, and furnishings. You can see the visual plan for the project above.

Halifax South End

Since we had some time, I ordered all of the fixtures well in advance of the renovation phase. Being able to take the time on these details will save time and money later, or solve any other issues that come up before the renovation starts. Our goal is to make the renovation process as seamless as possible, because we know the kitchen is the hub of the home and a big investment.

Cole Harbour:

Just before Christmas we were hired to come up with a new kitchen and dining room plan and concept. The home is a lovely cape cod style, located in a beautiful older, and somewhat rural, subdivision. It has a cottage feel, with lots of warmth and character. We presented them with a plan that includes new windows, flooring, opening up walls, lighting, new cabinetry and layout, and an estimated budget. The clients are pleased with the concept, and we’ll see how they decide to proceed!
Cole Harbour
Some projects are small and simple, while others are larger and more complex. At henhouse our design services range from offering ideas and opinions with an in-home consult, to creating a detailed plan, through to executing the plan. It always depends on the needs of the customer. If you’d like to learn more about our design services, or have a project in mind please contact us!
© 2009–2018 Henhouse

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